“Mary Quant was a trailblazer for women in business, empowering women of all ages that anyone can make it big. Quant, in my opinion, revolutionised female fashion and her impact and legacy still is prevalent today,” says Jack Dradey, the founder of the blog, Historic Fashionista.
When the news of Mary Quant’s death on April 13 2023 hit social media feeds and news screens around the world, many expressed similar feelings. Quant died peacefully at home in Surrey, UK this morning, according to her family as reported by The Guardian, when announcing the 93-year-old designer’s death from natural causes.
Quant was known for being the iconic trendsetter of the 1960s, raising hemlines (and eyebrows) one design at a time. With female empowerment in the air, many regard Quant as the fashion rule-breaker, designing clothes with the rebellious woman in mind.
In 1963, Quant brought the miniskirt to market. She initially sold the first one in her store Bazaar. Mary Quant named the miniskirt after her favourite make of car, the Mini. Wyoming newspaper The Billing Gazette described the miniskirt as a controversial item. In the piece, the miniskirt was described as stopping eight inches above the knee.
But Quant hadn’t always been the it-girl from Chelsea. In fact, she started out in the East End of London, where her parents didn’t even allow her to study fashion. She opted to study illustration at Goldsmiths instead.
She graduated in 1953 with a diploma in art education. Moreover she had met and married the entrepreneurial aristocrat Alexander Plunket Greene. Together they opened a shop, called Bazaar on Chelsea’s King’s Road in 1955. Soon wearying of the designs from her wholesalers, she taught herself how to make clothes and from 1956 onwards was officially a designer, selling her own creations through the shop.
And in 1963, one of those creations was the mini-skirt, which shoppers could pick up in a swinging in-store party, as Quant pioneered free drinks and loud music as part of the retail experience.
Chelsea youth culture was inspired by Italian sportswear and Quant embraced this sleek tailoring style, which made the miniskirt part of youthful mod uniform.
Despite the success, Quant is said to have refused to take credit for the wardrobe staple even though it went to inspire a roster of designers including Betsey Johnson and Marc Jacobs.
Sure enough, her nod to Mod has inspired become an icon of design and one that has appeared in millions of wardrobes. Although it seems insignificant to us now, the exposure of the legs and wearing of the miniskirt was a statement of control for the women of the Sixties and is a small part of how clothes continue to make history.
We salute you Mary.