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Mary Quant 60's Fashion Designer Mini Skirt, and Quant Cosmetics

Updated on November 25, 2016
TessSchlesinger profile image

Globetrotter, author, and thinker with interests in environment, minimalism, health, dancing, architecture, décor, politics, and science.

Mary Quant is a name synonymous with the sixties and Carnaby street. It brings to mind mini skirts, op art, a black and white patterned theme which recently made its way back to the fashion scene, the hipster pair of slacks, and pretty prints on baby doll dresses! She was the first in so many things that it's not unusual for her work to be in museums.

I got to learn quite a lot about her. The first reason was I read her autobiography which I found quite fascinating and the second was that when I was studying towards a fashion degree, she was one of the designers I studied. I actually wrote to her and got back a reply with photos and blurbs about her, personally signed. But that was a long time ago. :)

Hot Pants! The Micro-Mini! Op Art! Granny Print!

Mary Quant was responsible for making the mini skirt acceptable internationally. But did you know that she also designed the ‘hipster’, the trouser that sits on the hip and that everybody is wearing today. It was Mary’s dream since her early childhood that she would be able to design everything for women, including underwear, shoes, cosmetics and perfume and “by the mid sixties was creating nearly 18 collections a year (around 528 designs)” per year. Quant was also the first designer to realize that there was a correlation between beauty and fashion.

She is best remembered for the vibrantly colored mini-skirts and dresses she esigned, the ‘hot pants’ (shorts) worn with unbuttoned ‘maxi coats’ (floor length) and knee high boots and the daisy symbol on her cosmetic range. Her silhouettes were always angular, elegant and unfussy. As a result of the short dress lengths, she brought a revival to color tights and her trademark white and black daisy patterned hosiery worn with medium high heeled or flat shoes was widely copied. Her items were well crafted, utilizing expensive, luxury fabric, and available at only the most exclusive stores.

Quant dressed  by Quant. This is a photo of Mary Quant in one of her own designs.
Quant dressed by Quant. This is a photo of Mary Quant in one of her own designs. | Source

Quant studied at Goldsmith's college in London.

Mary Quant was born in 1934 in London, the daughter of two teachers. In 1950, at the age of 16, she was admitted to Goldsmiths College of Art in London, the prestigious and premier creative university in the United Kingdom. Five years later, at the age of twenty one (partnered with Alexander Plunket-Greene, her future husband, and Archie McNair), she opened her first shop (Bazaar) in Kings Road (London) to sell the clothes she designed.

Quant and Plunkett (her husband) interviewed in 1968

Audrey Hepburn and Bridgette Bardot were her clients.

From the beginning, she focused on elegant, easy-to-wear clothes that could move from work through to evening clubbing. Her clothing was expensive for she sought out only the best fabric. In addition, all her creations were lined in silk. Very soon, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and other celebrities were visiting her boutique.

She had a natural flair for business

Her business acumen came into play early and she opened a second boutique (Knightsbridge) in 1957 and then signed with JC Penney in 1962 to design for them. She did so for eleven years. She also launched a range of knitted garments in strong bold colors – Ginger Group – and these were sold internationally at various retail stores. In 1964, Puritan Fashions in the US also signed her to design for them. Despite this heavy workload, she launched her first hosiery and lingerie ranges in 1965 and in 1966 her cosmetic empire (including perfume) that initiated the first high-fashion color ranges and the first waterproof mascara was born. Between 1964 and 1968, she designed dressmaking patterns for Butterick. For Mary Quant, there was no such thing as leaving a stone unturned. She touched everything and anything that would make the life of a woman easier and more beautiful.

Quant cosmetics still going strong - mostly in Japan

Mary Quant still sells in London and Japan.
Mary Quant still sells in London and Japan. | Source

Using international top models - Twiggy and The Shrimp

Quant used top models like Twiggy to personify the youth, girlishness and innocence of her clothing. She also used top model Jean Shrimpton, who carried off her creations to perfection. Her fashions were focused on the young - bright, sleek lined, and easy-to wear.

Jean Shrimpton 'The Shrimp' often modeled for Mary Quant.
Jean Shrimpton 'The Shrimp' often modeled for Mary Quant.

Mary Quant cosmetics - still big in Japan

At the time that Mary Quant entered the cosmetic market, only 5 colors were available to women. There were no make-up brushes, no eyelash ranges, and no waterproof mascara. She revolutionized the cosmetic industry and models – until that time using theatrical make up – began to use Quant cosmetics instead.

The most decorated designer in history.

Arguably, Quant is the most decorated designer in the history of fashion. She won the Sunday Times Award (1963), the American Maison Blanche Award (1964), the Italian Piavolo d’Oro in 1966 and was ‘knighted’ by the Queen the same year with an O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire). In 1967, she won the Royal Society of Arts Annual Design Medal and in 1969 was named for both the Royal Designer for Industry as well as the Hall of Fame Award. In 1990, she was awarded the British Council Award.

Her expertise in her craft has been recognized by prestigious organizations and universities and she has been awarded honorary doctorates in both law and letters. In 1971 she was invited to join the Design Council Committee and in 1973 the Bicentennial Liaison Committee for the US and UK. In 1993, she was made a Senior Fellow of Goldsmith University and a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers.

Twiggy, a top model in the 60s, oftend modeld Mary Quant's clothing.
Twiggy, a top model in the 60s, oftend modeld Mary Quant's clothing.

Mary Quant fashions in Museums

Her expertise in her craft has been recognized by prestigious organizations and universities and she has been awarded honorary doctorates in both law and letters. In 1971 she was invited to join the Design Council Committee and in 1973 the Bicentennial Liaison Committee for the US and UK. In 1993, she was made a Senior Fellow of Goldsmith University and a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers.

A video of Mary Quant Shoes in the 60s

Quant in Japan 2015

Rakuten is an enormous website in Japan that still sells 'the look.'
Rakuten is an enormous website in Japan that still sells 'the look.' | Source

Mary Quant poll

Have you ever worn Mary Quant fashion

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Today Quant is mostly in Japan

Perhaps, the most unusual business decision that Mary Quant made was to launch her collections in Japan in 1970. In 1983, she introduced her cosmetic range in Japan where they sell to the middle and high end market. They are well received and she has some 200 stores in Japan.

Mary Quant is still loved by many and there are those who still seek out her designs. Currently, her official website is in two languages – Japanese and English. This is because these are still her strongest markets. While her clothing empire is no longer in existence, her cosmetics still have a large market share.

She also still maintains an online website where her clothing and cosmetics can be bought.

© 2015 Tessa Schlesinger

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