Quant: from the King’s Road to the international market…

Americans loved the London Look, so much so that in 1957 Quant signed a contract with J.C. Penney to create clothes and underwear for the wholesale market. American coordinates convinced her that separates were versatile and ideal for the young. To reach more of the British market in 1958 she launched the Ginger Group, a mass-produced version of the look, with U.S. manufacturer Steinberg’s. In the same year she was nominated as Woman of the Year in Britain and the Sunday Times in London gave her its International Fashion award.

Quant created a total look based on simple shapes and bold fashion statements. She hijacked the beatnik style of the late 1950s: dark stockings, flat shoes, and polo necks became obligatory for the girl in the street.

The pinafore dress, based on the traditional British school tunic, was transformed as one of the most useful garments of the early 1960s. Hemlines rose higher and higher; Quant’s miniskirts reached thigh level, in 1965, and everyone followed. Courréges confirmed that the time was right by launching his couture version in Paris but Quant needed no confirmation—1965 was the year of her whistlestop tour to the United States. With 30 outfits and her own models, she showed in 12 cities in 14 days. Sporting miniskirts and Vidal Sassoon’s five-point geometric haircuts, the models ran and danced down the catwalk. It was the epitome of Swinging London.

 

 

Quant’s talents did not go unnoticed in higher places. In 1966 she was awarded the OBE for services to fashion and went to Buckingham Palace wearing a miniskirt. Her cosmetics line was also launched this year, and recognizable by the familiar daisy logo, Quant cosmetics were an international success. Later taken over by Max Factor, they were retailed in 90 countries. Additionally, she experimented with new materials including PVC and nylon, to create outerwear, shoes, tights, and swimwear.

Plastic Raincoat

 In the early 1970s Quant moved out of mass market and began to work for a wider age group, chiefly for export to the U.S. and Europe. Her range of merchandise expanded to include household goods, toys, and furnishings. Mary Quant at Home, launched in the U.S. market in 1983, included franchised home furnishings and even wine. By the end of the 1980s her designs were again reaching the British mass market, through the pages of the Great Universal Stores/Kays mail order catalogues.

Mary Quant remained a genuine fashion innovator well into the 1990s and into the 2000s. Her market had grown up with her and she was able to anticipate its demands. Along the way she began publishing books, autobiographical to start, and later on beauty and cosmetics. It wasn’t until she was in her 60s that Mary Quant stepped down as director of Mary Quant Ltd., in 2000. She did, however, remain a consultant for the myriad of products she pioneered over the last four decades.

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