Mary Quant’s Bazaar: in the beginning was…

The name Mary Quant is synonymous with 1960s fashion.

Quant’s designs initiated a look for the newly emerging teen-and-twenties market enabling young women to establish their own identity and put Britain on the international fashion map. She believed that fashion should not exist just for the rich but for everyone, particularly the young.

 Quant did not study fashion; following parental advice she enrolled in an Art Teacher’s Diploma course at Goldsmith’s College, London University, but she was not committed to teaching. In the evenings she went to pattern cutting classes.

Her fashion career began in 1955, in the workrooms of the London milliner, Erik, the same year she opened her boutique, Bazaar in King’s Road, Chelsea, in partnership with her future husband, Alexander Plunket-Greene. The idea was to give the so-called Chelsea Set “a bouillabaisse of clothes and accessories.” Quant was the buyer, but she soon found the kinds of clothes she wanted were not available.

The solution was obvious, but not easy, 21 years old, with little fashion experience, Quant started manufacturing from her home. Using revamped Butterick patterns and fabrics bought retail at Harrods, she created a look for the Chelsea girl. Her customers were hardly younger than herself and she knew what they wanted; her ideas took off in a big way, on both sides of the Atlantic. The trendy shops and coffee bars of the King’s Road became the place in London for young people to shop and be seen.

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