QUANT-UM OF SOLACE AT THE V&A.
EW names are as synonymous with the Swinging Sixties as Mary Quant.
From her Bazaar boutique on London's cool King's Road, she is responsible for many of the silhouettes and styles that defined the decade. Not to mention - thanks to Vidal Sassoon - the era's most famous haircut.
Now, for the first time in 50 years, Quant is being celebrated with a retrospective at London's V&A museum.
Launching today and running until February 2020, it covers the years 1955 to 1975 and features more than 120 pieces, as well as cosmetics, sketches and photographs, many of which are on display for the first time.
It follows the sellout Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams show, which continues until September at the V&A. But the trailblazing designers could hardly be more different.
Indeed, the initial appeal of Quant's designs was that they provided a younger, fresher alternative to the stiffer, stuffier clothes being offered to young women in the late Fifties by designers like Dior and those he influenced.
Mary Quant circa 1965 Thanks to Mary and her boutique, girls no longer had to 'dress like their mothers'.
These days, when transparent trousers (see Asos) and PS400 denim knickers are par for the course, it's hard to imagine people being shocked by fashion but Quant's designs horrified some.
The mini skirt was one such item. Coco Chanel famously decried them as 'awful'. Others called them 'vulgar'. And while, contrary to fashion folklore Mary didn't actually invent the garment (a French designer named Andre Courreges holds that honour), she made them de rigeur for liberated young Sixties women.
Quant herself argued it was these women who brought about the skirt's birth, saying in 2009: "I was making easy, youthful, simple clothes, in which you could move, in which you could run and jump and we would make them the length the customer wanted. I wore them very short and the customers would say, 'Shorter, shorter'."
Intriguingly the skirts are named not for their length but for that other Sixties icon: the Mini car.
Naturally there are plenty of minis - skirts not motors - on display at the V&A, presented in a whole rainbow of colours.
The daughter of schoolteachers, Quant, who is now 85 and was made a dame in 2015, studied illustration at Goldsmiths. There she met her future husband, the aristocrat Alexander Plunket Greene. In 1955, he bought Markham House on the King's Road, opening Alexander's restaurant with his friend Archie McNair in the basement and the Bazaar boutique on the ground floor.
Initially Mary bought clothes in, but frustrated by what was on offer, began designing her own.
Whatever she made in sales she spent on material to make more, meaning that the rails were constantly stocked with fresh new looks.
Just two years after Bazaar launched, Mary opened a second London boutique and by 1963 the brand had hit the US.
Three years later she was awarded an OBE and by the end of the decade she was the UK's most high-profile designer, dressing millions of women.
Sixty years on, and with 1960s silhouettes endlessly recycled on the runways, her influence on fashion is impossible to overstate. | Mary Quant is at the V&A until February 16, 2020. See Vam.ac.uk
Mary Quant circa 1965