Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Mary Quant was one of the most famous fashion designers of the 1960s; her best-known creation was the mini-skirt. (Accounts vary on who really invented this, for there were actually several designers who came up with the idea, including Andre Courreges - he's most famous for the "color block" style dresses. But Quant DID make the mini-skirt a worldwide sensation.)

(mini cooper)

After studying illustration at art school, Quant worked for a couture milliner; she would often spend three days stitching a hat for one customer.

It was while working here that the young designer decided that fashion should also exist for her peers and everyone, not just the privileged few.

(Mary Quant mini skirt)

With this in mind, Quant opened the London boutique, Bazaar, in 1955 (Quant herself had no previous formal business training or prior experience
in selling clothes. Boyfriend-later-husband Alexander Plunkett-Green and accountant Archie McNair, who also knew nothing about selling clothes, financed the shop jointly. But the trio knew fashion, and everything clicked into place. In the first week, the shop did five times the amount of business expected!)

The first best-sellers were small white plastic collars to brighten up black dresses or sweaters. These sold for the equivalent of 30 cents each. Black
stretch stockings were also a popular item.

Quant attempted to find new and interesting items for the shop, but as a buyer, she wasn't satisfied with the range of clothes available to her. This led to the decision to design and manufacture her own (This was also fueled in part to the positive reaction of a pair of "mad house pajamas" designed for the boutique opening by Quant. The pajamas were featured in Harpers Bazaar and then picked up by an American manufacturer to copy. Quant was on her way.)

The budding designer soon expanded from working solo to having a few machinists; by 1966, Quant was working with 18 different manufacturers.


Some early experimental designs included balloon style dresses and knickerbockers. Large spots and checks were mixed. In the early 60s she designed the first range of coordinates in England with items such as sleeveless dresses and pinafore dresses featuring unusual color combinations.

The store's success led to the opening of a second Bazaar shop in 1961(This was also successful.) Quant decided to go wholesale, the only way to keep prices down to an accessible level for the mass market. 

1 comment:

  1. The D dress is actually a very famous Foale and Tuffin design, for the record. Also, John Bates is someone else credited with inventing the miniskirt and patterned tights (he wanted them for Diana Rigg in the Avengers to match the patterns on her mini-dresses, so she could do high kicking fights in short skirts, but manufacturers said no.)