Inventive, opinionated and commercially minded, Mary Quant was the most iconic fashion designer of the 1960s. A design and retail pioneer, she popularised super-high hemlines and other irreverent looks that were critical to the development of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ scene. Our fashion collections include examples of her famous designs from across the 1960s and 1970s.
Mary Quant was born and brought up in Blackheath, London, the daughter of two Welsh schoolteachers. Following her parents’ refusal to let her attend a fashion course, Quant studied illustration at Goldsmiths, where she met her future husband, the aristocrat Alexander Plunket Greene. She graduated in 1953 with a diploma in art education, and began an apprenticeship at a high-end milliner, Erik of Brook Street. In 1955, Plunket Greene purchased Markham House on the King’s Road in Chelsea, London, an area frequented by the ‘Chelsea Set’ – a group of young artists, film directors and socialites interested in exploring new ways of living – and dressing.
Quant was a self-taught designer, attending evening classes on cutting and adjusting mass-market printed patterns to achieve the looks she was after. Once technically proficient, she initiated a hand-to-mouth production cycle: the day’s sales at Bazaar paid for the cloth that was then made up overnight into new stock for the following day. Although exhausting, this cottage-industry approach meant that the rails at Bazaar were continually refreshed with short runs of new designs, satisfying the customers’ hunger for fresh, unique looks at competitive prices.
From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, Bazaar was one of very few shops in London that offered an alternative to the ‘mature’ styles produced by other high-fashion designers. It also offered a radically different shopping experience than the couturiers, department stores and chain stores that made up the mainstream fashion market. At Bazaar, loud music, free drinks, witty window displays and extended opening hours created a ‘scene’ that often kept going late into the evening. Young women travelled to Bazaar to enjoy shopping for ‘something different’ in a much less formal environment.
Quant’s developing aesthetic was influenced by the dancers, musicians and Beatnik street chic of the Chelsea Set, and the Mods (short for ‘Modernists’), a powerful subculture that helped to define London’s youth culture in late-1950s Britain, with their love of Italian sportswear, sharp tailoring and clean outlines. Quant’s first collections were strikingly modern in their simplicity, and very wearable. Unlike the more structured clothes still popular with couturiers, Quant wanted “relaxed clothes suited to the actions of normal life”. Pairing short tunic dresses with tights in bright, stand-out colours – scarlet, ginger, prune and grape – she created a bold, high-fashion version of the practical outfits she’d worn as a child at school and at dance classes.
Havoc is classified as a gorgeous powdery mossy, green, aldehydic chypre with a floral that begins with a tantalizing floral creme broule. It gradually settles down to a really lovely retro mix of green floracy and a faint musk. It is a very rare and hard to find perfume. This Fragrance was originally produced back in the 1970’S by MARY QUANT.
Mary Quant today.