Quant by Quant: The Autobiography of Mary Quant [REVIEW]

by Benjamin Reynolds


It has been over five decades since Mary Quant, alongside her husband and creative co-conspirator Alexander Plunket Greene, opened the ground breaking boutique Bazaar on London’s Kings Road and began to fearlessly shake up the fashion industry.

Her effervescent and endlessly inspiring autobiography, Quant on Quant, first published in 1966, is this autumn re-released by V&A Publishing in both paperback and e-book formats with a new foreword by the designer.

The eponymous work documents with infectious enthusiasm Quant’s early years, including her family life and evacuation to Kent from London during the war. Described with rollicking bohemian flair, it then takes in her years at art school, her meeting Plunket Green (“Life for me as I know it began when I first saw Plunket”, she writes) and the unstoppable rise of the Quant ‘Look’.

She never set out to be a designer, and only decided to create her own collections because she could find so little suitable ready-to-wear to keep Bazaar well stocked. It was not long before the floor of her bedsit was strewn with fabrics and pattern pieces with dressmakers working tirelessly on her latest designs. Soon Bazaar became Mecca for London’s fashionable young things.

Few would have dared to anticipate just how precisely Quant’s boutique and her designs would capture the spirit of the day. Alongside the Beatles and other cultural icons of the time, Quant and Bazaar confirmed London as the capital of social change, and Chelsea as the epicentre Swinging Sixties. “London led the way in changing the focus of fashion from the establishment to the young”, Quant describes, “I had always wanted the young to have a fashion of their own”.

From theatrical window displays to charming fashion shows, many of Quant’s playful and charming ideas would not look out of date even now. “I believe in mixing patterns and colours wildly,” she writes – a style mantra that could so easily apply to today’s fashion icons and brands.

Quants infectious attitude and tireless pursuit of the new make this a must-read for those hoping to make it as fashion designer. As she describes, a designer “must capture the spirit of the day and interpret it in clothes”. We can’t recommend it enough.

BUY: Quant by Quant: The Autobiography of Mary Quant