Mary Quant, the designer who popularized the miniskirt, is dead


Mary Quant, in London, in 1967.

A few centimeters less. It was thanks to the invention of the miniskirt in 1962 that Mary Quant revolutionized fashion and breathed a wind of lightness into women’s wardrobes. The British designer is dead “peacefully” in Surrey, southern England, on Thursday April 13, at the age of 93, his family announced. If fashion historians argue over the name of the original inventor of the miniskirt – would it be French tailor Lucien David Langman or André Courrèges? – it was Mary Quant who popularized and imposed it in the vocabulary.

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From a very young age, I wanted to make clothes that were fun to wear,” she says in her autobiography, Quant by Quant (V & A Publishing, 1966, reissued 2012, not translated). Born in Blackheath, south-east London on February 11, 1930, to Welsh parents who were both teachers, Mary Quant studied illustration at Goldsmiths University, London. There she met her future husband, Alexander Plunket Greene. Together, with the help of their friend Archie McNair (who would become their accountant), in 1955 they inaugurated a hybrid and daring store for the time, called Bazaar, on the famous King’s Road in London.

From Brigitte Bardot to the Beatles

In the basement, her husband opens a restaurant in which jazz musicians come to accompany the evenings. On the ground floor, her lair, Mary offers jewelry that she buys from art students and hats that she makes. Very quickly, she trained in the art of cutting and offered her innovative clothes in her shop, which she often sewed at night in her small workshop tucked away in a corner of the shop. Make way for color, from purple to red via green, to light materials like jersey, to little jackets inspired by men’s blazers, to cardigans worn short, to long socks that go up on the leg and to dresses that get shorter.

The place quickly became the headquarters of young people and artists, in search of emancipation and novelty. We meet Brigitte Bardot, the Rolling Stones or the Beatles there. It must be said that Quant has an appetite for the show. The windows of the Bazaar are so many moments of joy: she piles up dozens of cartons of milk, brings in sand to create the atmosphere of a beach… Gentlemen in bowler hats do not hesitate to knock on the window with their umbrella to exclaim that what the shop offers is “Immoral! ».

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If she offered a very short skirt in her wardrobe in 1962, it was in 1965 that it really became popular. Mary Quant was then invited by the American chain of stores JC Penney to design collections, which she would do for eleven years. She introduces her shortened skirt from the start. Who is also in the spotlight in her own creations, which she signs with her name. The success is immediate. The girls’ legs are then exposed for the first time for all to see, and the curators almost choke.

Brightly colored makeup

Mary Quant also innovates with her use of PVC, which she applies to large hats, raincoats or high boots. In 1963, she created her group, which she called Ginger. His creations are then sold in more than 150 shops in the United Kingdom, more than 300 in the United States, but also in France, Italy and as far as Australia.

In 1966, she started making up. Its proposals astonish by their pop packaging and their frank colors. In 1971, she inaugurated the bus make-upa traditional red London public transport bus that she is transforming into a traveling make-up salon, and which will travel from England to Venezuela, via Canada.

In 1988, she was invited to decorate the interior of the small Austin Mini car, in her colors. Two thousand models were thus available for sale. During the 1990s, Mary Quant opened boutiques in Paris (rue Bonaparte) and New York. It was in 2000 that she retired and sold her business to a Japanese group. Today only Mary Quant make-up is still marketed, while her pop and colorful creations delight vintage lovers, ready to scour the thrift stores to unearth some.

Mary Quant in a few dates

February 11, 1930 Born in London

1955 Opening of the Bazaar store in London

1962 Introduction of the miniskirt in its collections

1988 Decorate the Austin Mini car

2000 Sale of his company to a Japanese group

2015 Named “Lady of the British Empire”

April 13, 2023 Died in Surrey, UK


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