The queen of the miniskirt, colourful tights and tailored trousers, Mary Quant personified the energy and fun of swinging 60s and was a powerful role model for working women – encouraging a new age of feminism.
Always challenging conventions, Quant inspired young women to rebel against the traditional dress of their mothers and grandmothers, turning her tiny London boutique into a wholesale global brand, making fashion less exclusive and more accessible to a new generation.
This brilliantly colourful exhibition comes direct from a sell-out season at London’s revered Victoria & Albert Museum, and explores the years between 1955 and 1975, when Quant revolutionised the high street, harnessing the youthful spirit of the sixties and new mass production techniques to create a modern new look for women.
Drawn from Mary Quant’s own archive as well as the V&A’s extensive fashion holdings, which include the largest public collection of Quant garments in the world, the exhibition brings together over 110 garments as well as accessories, cosmetics, sketches and photographs.
Many of the star objects featured in the exhibition come directly from a public call-out by the V&A to find rare garments and collect personal stories from the real women who wore Quant clothes.
The results of the WeWantQuant social media campaign, which received over 800 responses, demonstrates the scale of Quant’s impact on fashion and her vital role in pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable for women to wear.
Bendigo Art Gallery Director Jessica Bridgfoot said she was delighted to present this exhibition in Bendigo. “Mary Quant is an icon whose fashion business emerged as a response to gloomy Post War Britain – and it comes to us at a time when we could all also use a lift,” she said.
“As a designer, she transformed the way young women dressed – moving away from the dominant and often restricting silhouettes prescribed by Parisian couturiers, to comfortable, affordable, and sassy mix and match designs.”
“The Butterick sewing patterns, Quant cosmetic line and the Ginger Group collection were hugely popular here in Australia, and many of a certain age will also remember Dolly magazine’s long running Mary Quant Cover girl contest – always a big moment for Australian teenagers,” said Ms Bridgfoot.
The exhibition begins in post-war London, when Quant first opened her experimental shop Bazaar on Chelsea’s King’s Road in 1955, a time when her designs, often based on schoolgirl pinafores or masculine tailoring, brought an entertaining new slant to fashion editors and newspaper journalists in the burgeoning media of the day.
Ahead of her time in marketing and promotion, Quant was the embodiment of her label. Her distinctive, photogenic style, playful energy and revolutionary approach made her the ultimate ambassador for the brand.
The exhibition explores some of Quant’s most memorable moments, from collecting her OBE to the evolution of her rising hemlines with miniskirts. It looks at her collaborations with manufacturers, where she diversified into underwear, hosiery and cosmetics, all packaged with her distinctive daisy logo, and explores her own line of dolls, known as Daisy Dolls, a rival to Barbie.
Mary Quant is part of a series of revelatory fashion exhibitions created by the V&A which also included the critically acclaimed Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, and Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear – which were also presented at Bendigo Art Gallery.
“This is a vibrant, energizing exhibition and was the most popular exhibitions ever to be staged in the V&A’s Fashion Gallery, so we are thrilled to be able to bring it to Bendigo and continue our successful ongoing relationship with this revered international museum,” said Ms Bridgfoot.
Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary
Bendigo Art Gallery, 42 View Street, Bendigo
Exhibition: 20 March – 11 July 2021
Information and Bookings: www.bendigoregion.com.au
Image: Mary Quant and Vidal Sassoon, 1964 © Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo