Mary Quant is undoubtedly one of the most famous fashion designers in the world. Much like our fore-fathers, both Philip and Charles Goldsmith, Quant was not only incredibly inventive but was also brilliantly commercially minded. This resulted in her becoming a pioneer of both design and retail. Her hem-lines and transformative looks helped to define the ‘swinging sixties’ scene and put Britain firmly back on the fashion map.
Originally born in Blackheath, London, Quant was the daughter of two schoolteachers. After their refusal for her to attend fashion school, they appeased their daughter by agreeing on an illustration course at Goldsmiths. She graduated with a diploma in art education in 1953 and began work as an apprentice at milliner Erik of Brook Street. By 1955, Quant and her husband Alexander Plunket Greene were living on the King’s Road in Chelsea and very much a part of the ‘Chelsea set’ – a group of young artists, socialites and film directors.
Together, they opened one of the most ground-breaking stores of the 20th century; Bazaar. On the ground floor Quant hand made and sold her original designs, whilst in the basement her husband ran his restaurant ‘Alexanders’, an incredibly glamorous establishment that pulsated with the toing and froing of celebrities and global trendsetters.
Originally selling wholesale product that she could source, Quant quickly felt restricted and bored by the trends she was offering and wanted to use her own designs to redefine women’s style. Much like Philip Goldsmith in the 1930’s, they shared the same vision of being able to offer something new, to give people the opportunity to use fashion or eyewear to express themselves and to break the rules.
Mary Quant discovered Vidal Sassoon when she was dashing past Bond Street one day and saw a photograph of a haircut that stopped her in her tracks. Upstairs, she found him tucked away fashioning some of the most contemporary, shocking and iconic hairstyles to exist – they became great friends and collaborated regularly. Sassoon and Goldsmith were also friends; the two joined forces on many an occasion, most famously to create a fantastic look in the late 1960’s that was modelled around a pair of sunglasses called ‘pyramid’. Sassoon’s hairstyle mimicked the frame design and went on to be a seminal moment in the brands history.
Quant, Goldsmith and the hairdresser Vidal Sassoon were in agreement that fashion should be fun – and in all cases, that of course meant ruffling some feathers. But rebels rarely go quietly, and they all went on to establish themselves as revolutionaries in their industries.
The V&A Museum kindly describe Oliver Goldsmith as the “originator of fashion eyewear”, and “to eyewear design what Vidal Sassoon is to hair and Mary Quant to clothes”.The V&A Museum in London are currently displaying an exhibition about Mary Quant Exhibition that will run until 16th Feb 2020 and is well-worth a visit.