Mary Quant retrospective celebrates the life of a fashion revolutionary

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The V&A has unveiled the first international retrospective of Dame Mary Quant, and it opens to the public on Saturday 6th April.

It’s difficult to appreciate in this age of accessible and affordable fast fashion, just how revolutionary Mary Quant was in harnessing mass production techniques to bring cutting-edge design to young women everywhere, but this exhibition really captures the magic and impact of her business model and brand.

It focuses on the years 1955 to 1975, and charts Quant’s journey from her tiny and iconoclastic King’s Road boutique Bazaar lighting up post-war London, to the ‘Youth Quake’ landing in America, where her designs were made for chain stores and mail order companies. It explores how she was ahead of her time in terms of marketing and promotion (printing the boutique name in bold type on shopping bags), and how she collaborated with manufacturers to expand the brand across underwear, hosiery, cosmetics and even a line of dolls, known as Daisy dolls, at the time a rival for Barbie.

As well as receiving unprecedented access to Dame Mary Quant’s Archive for the exhibition, the V&A put a call-out to the public last summer to track down rare Quant garments. From the over 1000 responses they received, the curators whittled this down to 35 objects from 30 individuals and their cherished personal items have a starring role in the show and are accompanied by photographs of the women who donated them and their memories of wearing Quant clothes.

“Mary Quant transformed the fashion system, overturning the dominance of luxury couture from Paris,” said co-curator Jenny Lister. “She dressed the liberated woman, freed from rules and regulations, and from dressing like their mothers.”

Mary Quant is open at the V&A’s Gallery 40 from 6th April to 16th February 2020. Tickets are £12.

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