As London Fashion week rolls into town, we’re delighted to announce that this April V&A will open the first international retrospective on the iconic fashion designer Dame Mary Quant. The exhibition will explore 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 new look for women.
Quant personified the energy and fun of swinging London; and was a powerful role model for the working woman. Challenging conventions, she popularised the miniskirt, colourful tights, and tailored trousers – encouraging a new age of feminism. The mini skirt would go on to become an icon of the time and spark a new creative scene in London and beyond.
Receiving unprecedented access to Quant’s Archive, as well as drawing on the V&A’s extensive fashion holdings, which include the largest public collection of Quant garments in the world, the show will bring together over 120 garments as well as accessories, cosmetics, sketches and photographs – the majority of which have never been on display before.
In June 2018, the V&A launched a call-out to the public to track down rare Quant garments from wardrobes around the country. Receiving over 800 responses, 35 objects from 30 individuals were selected alongside personal stories from the owners and 50 photographs of the women wearing their beloved Quant clothes. These objects and stories have transformed the exhibition narrative, uncovering rare examples such as a very early and unlabelled blouse, a hat sold at Bazaar, and colourful PVC raincoats.
Exhibition lender Sheila Hope came forward with her dress made for her 21st birthday from a Butterick dress pattern, describing the piece as “an iconic, simple design which instantly appealed to me, frilled neckline and sleeves with tiny darts to shape and ease the elbow.”
Ahead of her time in marketing and promotion, Quant was the embodiment of the label. Her distinctive, photogenic style, playful energy and revolutionary approach made her the ultimate ambassador for the brand.
The exhibition will look at her collaborations with manufacturers, diversifying into underwear, hosiery and cosmetics, all made to her designs, and packaged with her distinctive daisy logo. It will also explore her own line of dolls, known as Daisy dolls, a rival to Barbie.
Jenny Lister, co-curator of Mary Quant at the V&A, said: “Mary Quant … dressed the liberated woman, freed from rules and regulations, and from dressing like their mothers. This long overdue exhibition will show how Mary Quant’s brand connected with her customers, how she made designer fashion affordable for working women, and how her youthful, revolutionary clothes, inspired by London’s creative scene, made British streetstyle the global influence it remains today.”
Exhibition supporter is GRoW @ Annenberg, the philanthropic initiative led by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, a Vice President and Director of the Annenberg Foundation. GRoW is dedicated to supporting humanitarian efforts across the globe as well as innovative projects in health, education, the arts and civic & cultural life.
Mary Quant runs from 6 April 2019 – 16 February 2020. Tickets from £12
Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL