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London designer Mary Quant is immortalized by fashion iconography as the originator of the miniskirt.
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Immortalized by fashion iconography as the originator of the miniskirt, London designer Mary Quant had an art-school background and had been designing and manufacturing her own clothes since the late 1950s. She had one distinct advantage over previous designers: She was a contemporary of her clients, rather than of an older generation. Convinced that fashion needed to be affordable to be accessible to the young, she opened her own retail boutique, Bazaar, on the Kings Road in 1955,
introducing the "mod" era and the "Chelsea look."
Mary Quant was born on February 11, 1934, in Blackheath, London, England, to Welsh teachers Jack and Mary Quant, who were originally from mining families. She went to Blackheath High School before studying illustration at Goldsmiths College.
Quant achieved a diploma in art education from Goldsmiths and went on to become an apprentice couture milliner, at which point she began designing and manufacturing clothes. She met her future husband and business partner, Alexander Plunkett-Greene, at Goldsmiths. The couple wed in 1957 and had a son together, Orlando. The two were happily married until Plunkett-Greene's death in 1990.
Quant had one distinct advantage over previous designers: she was a contemporary of her clients, rather than of an older generation. Convinced that fashion needed to be affordable to be accessible to the young, she opened her own retail boutique, Bazaar, on the Kings Road in 1955, with the help of Plunkett-Greene and former solicitor Archie McNair, introducing the "mod" era and the "Chelsea look." The best-selling items were white plastic collars used to brighten up black dresses or T-shirts and black stretch leggings.
In her quest for new and interesting clothes for Bazaar, Quant wasn't satisfied with the range of clothes available and decided that the shop would have to be stocked with clothes made by herself. Knee-high, white, patent plastic, lace-up boots and tight, skinny rib sweaters in stripes and bold checks, which came to epitomize the "London look," were the result.
Along with trendy fashion shows and window displays, she secured her reputation through the production of original clothing, sold in affordable boutiques, for the new youth-orientated market.
Following on the success of the first Chelsea store, a second Bazaar opened in Knightsbridge in 1961. By 1963, Quant was exporting to the United States, going into mass-production to keep up with the demand, and the Mary Quant worldwide brand was born.
The mid-1960s saw Quant at the height of her fame, when she created the micro-mini and the "paint box" makeup of 1966, and added the shiny, plastic raincoats and little grey pinafore dresses that came to epitomize the 1960s fashion era. She expanded her brand further into a range of original patterned tights, a range of cosmetics and other fashion accessories.
Quant has claimed that she did not invent the miniskirt, but, rather, the girls who visited her shops did, as they wanted them shorter and shorter.
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