When discussing yesterday’s movie with Chris of Bridges Burning, my alter ego on this blog, I was surprised/amazed to hear that she had no idea who Mary Quant was/is.
In 1955 when her first shop Bazaar was opened in Kings Road Chelsea, I was a schoolgirl longing to have access to money to buy my own clothes, particularly a Mary Quant dress. That had to wait until the next year when I was working and had my own money.
“The serendipitous synchronicity of a name shared by the shop and Harper’s Bazaar emerged just ahead of the opening of Quant’s Bazaar. In its September 1955 issue, this magazine became the first publication to feature a Quant editorial, printing a photograph of a sleeveless daytime tunic worn over culotte trousers, captioned “big penny spots on smart tan pyjamas, 4 guineas, from Bazaar, a new boutique”. Although Quant (sic)described her spotty pyjamas as ‘mad’, Bazaar, with its uniquely agile finger on the social pulse, was alert to her potential.
In 1957, her second shop opened in Knightsbridge; in 1962 she agreed a deal with the American chain store JC Penney; in 1963 she launched her cheaper wholesale line the Ginger Group; and in 1966, her divinely packaged makeup, jewellery and coloured tights hit the stores. But it was the arrival of her miniskirt in 1965 – ‘so short,’ she said, ‘that you could move, run, catch a bus, dance’ – that ensured Quant’s position as the most sought-after label for every fashionable female.”
But back to the movie. Suddenly watching this, I was transported back to the ‘swinging sixties’. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Byrds et al all were part of my growing up and the early years as a young bride.
The movie blurb reads “The first official feature documentary celebrating the incredible life of one of the most influential icons of the 20th Century, fashion designer Dame Mary Quant. Featuring contributions from Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood, Edward Enninful, Dave Davies, Charlotte Tilbury, Jasper Conran and Zandra Rhodes as well as Mary’s family and peers.”
it follows her life through childhood in London with holiday visits to Pembrokeshire, to meeting the charismatic, Alexander Penrose-Greene at Goldsmith’s College in London, early moves into and through to her rise in the fashion industry, marriage to Alexander (who coincidentally was five years her junior: a secret kept out of the public eye), to the birth of her son, Orlando and her private life. Alexander died at the age of 56 in 1990.
Much has been written about her and the amazing and rapid rise of her fashions, clothes, makeup and accessories. The name lives on and with it my memories of those dresses worn with delight, following the recently finished Second World War and bought with my own money.
Now my question to my followers – Do you know who Mary Quant is.
She is now Dame Mary, 92 years old and lives a quiet life between homes in Surrey and Grasse. She is a non-executive director of the House of Fraser group.
“Risk it, go for it. Life always gives you another chance,
another go at it. It’s very important to take enormous risks.”
Mary Quant, British fashion designer