Family members say that fashion designer Dame Mary Quant died at her home in Surrey, UK. Her age was 93. She helped make hot pants, miniskirts, and Vidal Sassoon bobs important parts of the look of the Swinging Sixties in London. Quant opened an important shop on Kings Road when she was still in her 20s. It became a world fashion brand.
Quant was born in London to Welsh schoolteachers. From a young age, she was interested in fashion. Even as a child during World War II, she didn’t like the rules about how children should dress.
“I didn’t like clothes the way they were. I didn’t like the clothes I inherited from a cousin. They weren’t me,” Quant explained in a 1985 interview on Thames TV. What she liked, she said, was the style of a young girl in her dancing class.
“She was very complete. And her look! It’s always been in my head. Black tights. White ankle socks… and black patent leather shoes with a button on top. The skirt was minutely short.”
Quant’s parents didn’t like the idea of her working in fashion, so she went to art school at Goldsmiths College and studied drawing. There, she met and married Alexander Plunket Greene, a wealthy student. In 1955, they opened a business in Chelsea with Archie McNair. At the time, there were already signs of what would become the “Youthquake” of the 1960s.
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Quant was a self-taught designer who wanted to make fun clothes for young, modern women to wear to work and “run to the bus in,” as she put it. That meant flats, bright-colored tights, dresses with pockets, Peter Pan collars, knickerbockers, and tiny skirts.
“Because the Chelsea girl — she had the best legs in the world, ” Quant declared in the Thames TV interview. “She wanted the short skirts, the elongated cardigan.”
Quant helped Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy become two of the most famous British models of the time. He also created a line of makeup partly inspired by their unusual ways of putting it on, like blush on their eyelids. She also added something new: makeup that doesn’t run. Notably, she also hired Black models when magazines and runaways rarely had people of different races.
“She was one of the first female fashion designers to build an entire brand around her name,” said John Campbell McMillian, a history professor who studies the 1960s. Quant, he notes, helped kick off the careers of photographer Brian Duffy, designer Caroline Charles and legendary Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who had an early job as a shop assistant for Quant.
“People who worked for her talked about how fun she was to be around, even as they worked at a blazing pace.”
Quant’s brand was never as big as Ralph Lauren’s or Gloria Vanderbilt’s, but her relationship with JCPenney in the 1960s showed that she cared about making fashion cheap and easy to get. Her impact lives on.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan have recently shown retrospectives of her work. And in 2021, movie star Sadie Frost made a sweet documentary about Mary Quant that was about her.
Some people on Twitter pay tribute to this famous star, whose tweets are below.