Perhaps one the most revolutionary designers of our time, Mary Quant’s non-conformist attitude to fashion perfectly captured the cultural progression of the sixties and seventies. Looking to celebrate new, edgier designs, most notably in the form of the mini skirt, Quant aimed to focus away from tawdry ‘adult’ designs in favour of targeting young, hip consumers. Her designs certainly epitomise this intention; with creations such as hot pants, short pleated skirts and bright mini dresses, Quant soon became a household name, expanding her market across the likes of Europe, the USA and Japan.
Popularised by the likes of the model Twiggy, as well as notable magazines including Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, Quant quickly began to dress an international clientele. Owning two boutiques within the most fashionable parts of London, her designs frequently included use of PVC, plastic and synthetics, and later developed her merchandise into patterned tights, cosmetics, and accessories.
Based at the quaint Manchester Gallery of Costume found in Platt Hall, the exhibition features twenty outfits spanning from the late fifties to the early seventies, with contributors including Leeds Museum and Galleries, the London College of Fashion, and private collectors Mark and Cleo Butterfield. Offering a glimpse into the hedonistic world of the sixties and seventies, the exhibition offers stylistic innovations and social narrative in equal measure, and looks to continue Manchester’s success as a representative of fashion’s recent colourful history.
Quant’s designs aren’t just items of clothing; they represent a part of social change, a shift in cultural perspectives that allowed young women to free themselves from the shackles of orthodox, patriarchal society. The undeniable first lady of modern fashion, Quant’s legacy is encapsulated perfectly by this powerful, intriguing exhibition.
Mary Quant: Fashion Icon is a free exhibit on display at Manchester’s Gallery of Costume until Sunday 5th November 2017.