The name MARY QUANT is synonymous with miniskirts, feminism and, of course, the King’s Road. These three things and more are being celebrated at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Mary Quant exhibition.
The exhibition showcases Quant’s work from 1955 to 1975, including more than 120 garments as well as sketches, photos and make-up. The backdrop of Chelsea was key to Quant’s success, with the eclectic, creative crowd who gravitated to the King’s Road quickly adopting the look and helping it to escalate. While the area had royal and aristocratic origins, it became a hub for everyone from architects to authors and socialites, placing it ﬁrmly at the heart of fashion, youth and creativity in the Sixties and Seventies.
“Known for establishing high-street fashion, inventing hot pants and popularising the miniskirt, Quant freed women…from dressing like their mothers,” says V&A exhibition co-curator Jenny Lister. “Mary made high fashion affordable for working women, and her youthful, revolutionary clothes, inspired by London, made British street style the global inﬂuence it remains today.”
What stands out is how ahead of her time and experimental Quant was. “In April 1963 she introduced the Wet Collection –pieces made out of PVC. Previously only used for very functional raincoats and workwear, she used black, white and ginger, delighting in the shiny surface and rich colours of the material,” Lister says.
At the exhibition, “Visitors will get a sense of Quant’s energy and creativity, emerging from drab post-war austerity into the age of consumerism and colour,” says Lister. Quant was able to bridge the gap between haute couture and accessible fashion, revolutionising the high street. Dame Mary Quant embraced all forms of femininity, including androgyny. She popularised many things we take for granted today, such as trousers, as well as “miniskirts, tights and waterproof mascara,” says cocurator Stephanie Wood. In her time, she played a huge role in shaping the King’s Road, and that legacy very much lives on today.
Mary Quant, sponsored by King’s Road, at the V&A until February 16 2020, vam.ac.uk/maryquant