Mary Quant has always had no doubts: “Fashion should be a game!”. Fashion should be provocative and entertaining, and mirror contemporary society.
Her parents wished for her to become a teacher, but fate ̶and her rebellious soul ̶took her to fashion, and to open her first boutique in the vibrant atmosphere of Swinging London.
A revolutionary forerunner, the British designer observed young people’s style on the streets, and used their own language to put that unconventional wave into iconic fashion objects that we now take for granted.
In giving popularity to some symbols of those years such as miniskirts, colorful tights, and waterproof mascara, Quant also marked a turning point in women’s fashion.
The Victoria & Albert Museum is celebrating her genius with the first International retrospective exhibition on her work, running from April 6, 2019, to February 16, 2020. The exhibition leads visitors through the history of Mary Quant’s style, from her debut as a student and owner of the King’s Road store to her success as a businesswoman managing one of the first international lifestyle brands: a 20-year-long journey (from 1955 to 1975) through different garments, photos, magazines and videos.
As pointed out by Stephanie Wood, who co-curated the exhibition alongside Jenny Lister, Mary Quant has transformed the fashion world, challenged the dominance of Parisian high fashion and expanded the horizon of what was ‘acceptable’ for women to wear.
Out of Mary Quant’s various creative ideas, the exhibition gives space to low-waits pinafore dresses inspired by the ‘20s Charleston and reminiscent of preppy school uniforms, cocktail dresses and kimonos from the ‘70s.
The exhibited selection also highlights Quant’s legendary jersey minidress with zipper on the front, flowery dresses with a liberty print mixed with geometric and dotted patterns, and minimal, neutral pieces.
The Wet Collection could not be left out either: its pvc outerwear including Mackintosh coats and vinyl cloaks, as well as its sporty tracksuits or cricket-style jumpers made their appearance years before street style became a trend.
Mary Quant is to be credited for showing the essence of British style to the world, and being a pioneer in spotting the potential of street style.
As a protagonist of fashion history, she can only be celebrated in a temple of art and design like VAM.