Mary Quant

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Mary Quant Pencil Portrait
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Last update: 15/02/16

Mary Quant was the unrivalled queen of swinging London, creating the Chelsea Girl look and establishing London’s Kings Road on the world map. At the height of her fame, at least one article was unstinting in its praise – “It is given to a fortunate few to be born at the right time, in the right place, with the right talents. In recent fashion, there are three: Chanel, Dior and Mary Quant.”

Quant’s shop Bazaar was the place to be in London. Opened in 1957, within seven years the company had expanded throughout Europe and the United States, and was mass-producing designs on a multimillion-dollar annual scale. The Beatles often popped in to buy designs for their girlfriends, and George Harrison married the model Patti Boyd in clothes designed by Quant. Her friends included David Bailey, Terence Conran and Vidal Sassoon. Responsible for the mass popularity of min i skirts, hot pants, the Lolita look, the slip dress, PVC raincoats, smoky eyes and sleek bob haircuts, make-up would ultimately prove to be her most lucrative venture.

Inextricably associated with the 60’s, it was almost inevitable that her star would fade when the decade ended. Nevertheless, in the 80s her name would return to glossy magazines, but this time in the beauty pages, with blue nail polishes and silver eyeliners bearing the trademark daisy of the designer who had once famously said that “good taste is death, vulgarity is life”.

In September 1970, an exclusive distribution agreement for the distribution of Mary Quant cosmetics in Japan was officially signed with Mary Quant Cosmetics Ltd., UK, and Gala Cosmetics International Ltd. Eventually, the enterprise would be sold to the Japanese in 2000, an event that removed Quant from day to day involvement in the business. Resigning from her empire under a veil of silence, rumours persisted that she had been effectively ousted from her position as director. Confidentiality agreements with the Japanese businessmen who held the licensing agreements for the Quant name were integral to the buy-out agreement. A spokeswoman for Mary Quant confirmed that the designer had been made a “generous offer” by her Japanese licensees.

Recommended reading

Mary Quant My Autobiography (Mary Quant) 2012

Hardly a cohesive biography, more a series of snapshots from an interesting life told with all due modesty.

Her wartime childhood was reportedly “enormous fun,” although her early developing interest in clothing would engender friction at home. Overcoming parental objection – they saw no future in a fashion career and her attendance at Art school was a compromise – she would soon be earning £3 10s a week making hats in Brook Street and before long, would become part of the chelsea set.—hallelujah—invented-waterproof-mascara.html

Quant would define the 60s as a renowned fashion designer and all-round style icon, most famous for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants. Unafraid of novelty or experimentation, and a diligent worker, she showed a generation of women how to dress to please themselves. Quant’s career was fulsome and varied – from opening up a clothes shop on the King’s Road called Bazaar, designing the interior of the Mini (including her signature daisy), to her vast cosmetics company, Mary Quant Limited, she would engender widespread appeal amongst generations of women.

As for this volume, there’s the vague suspicion the ghostwriter and proofreader were kept at bay – the text is jumpy and in places repetitive – but it’s also amusingly anecdotal and confessional in equal measure. Ultimately, Quant brings to her memoir the same unerring sense of style and detail she once brought to fashion.

And that dear friends, is saying rather a lot!