The V&A museum opens its first retrospective on fashion designer Mary Quant
Gallery 40, V&A, London
6 April 2019 – 16 February 2020
This month (April) saw the first international retrospective on the iconic fashion designer Dame Mary Quant, open at the V&A. Quant is credited for revolutionising the high street, capturing the youthful spirit of the sixties as well as new mass production techniques to create a new look for women. The exhibition explores this key period, 1955 – 1975, which built the foundation for the fashion industry as we know it today.
‘Fashion is not frivolous; it is part of being alive today’Mary Quant.
Quant’s designs symbolise the energy and fun of swinging London. They are a powerful role model for the working woman. Challenging conventions, she popularised the miniskirt, colourful tights, and tailored trousers – encouraging a new age of feminism. The mini skirt would go on to become an icon of the time and spark a new creative scene in London and beyond.
Inspiring young women to rebel against traditional dress worn by their mothers and grandmothers, Quant’s tiny boutique on the King’s Road grew into a wholesale brand available in department stores across the UK. Quant’s success also hit America, where her designs were made for chain stores and mail order companies. Quant quickly became the woman that made fashion less exclusive and more accessible to a new generation.
Pieces on Display
The show brings together over 120 garments as well as accessories, cosmetics, sketches and photographs. Some come from Quant’s very own archive with the majority of exhibits never been on display before.
The beginning of the exhibition sets the scene of post-war London for the opening of Quant’s experimental shop Bazaar, on Chelsea’s King’s Road in 1955. It show how her designs, often based on schoolgirl pinafores or masculine tailoring, brought a dimension to fashion. Quant’s designs soon attracted fashion editors and newspaper journalists in the burgeoning media of the day.
‘Mary Quant transformed the fashion system, overturning the dominance of luxury couture from Paris. She dressed the liberated woman, freed from rules and regulations, and from dressing like their mothers. This long-overdue exhibition will show how Mary Quant’s brand connected with her customers, how she made designer fashion affordable for working women, and how her youthful, revolutionary clothes, inspired by London’s creative scene, made British street style the global influence it remains today.’Jenny Lister, co-curator of Mary Quant at the V&A.
From small boutique to international label, Quant revolutionised British fashion with energy, flair and rebellion. Mary Quant at the V&A will feature never before seen designs and provide an unrivalled insight into the career of one of Britain’s most revolutionary and important fashion designers.
See the exhibition and shop the look! Come onto our Camden Town shop where our fabulous staff will help you seek out your perfect Mary Quant inspired look. As well as a huge range of sixties inspired sunglasses, we also stock dresses, skirts and accessories.
Don’t forget to upload your St Cyr Vintage looks using the #wearestcyr for your chance to be featured on our Instagram feed and our monthly style blog. The V&A is using its own #wewantquant so don’t forget to include that as well!
Words by Emily B
Main image: Satin mini-dress and shorts by Mary Quant, photograph by Duffy, 1966 © Duffy Archive