We want your Quant

If you’ve got some Mary Quant out­fits lurk­ing in your wardrobe, the V&A would like to hear from you

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Jayne Lindill

Among Heather Til­bury’s me­men­toes of a long and fas­ci­nat­ing ca­reer in pub­lic re­la­tions is a photo she’d like to share with the rest of Suf­folk. It’s of Heather her­self, a young, pro­fes­sional woman, fash­ion­ably dressed in a boldly pat­terned jacket and maxi-skirt, taken in 1973 in South Molton Street, just off Lon­don’s Bond Street, out­side the Ginger Group show­room. Read­ers of a cer­tain vin­tage might recog­nise that name as the ready-to-wear la­bel of de­signer Mary Quant, ar­guably the UK’s great­est fashion icon of the 20th cen­tury and, in Heather’s early ca­reer, her boss. The out­fit, made in Lib­erty Varuna fab­ric, was de­signed by Mary Quant. Heather hasn’t seen it for years, not since she gave it to a jum­ble sale for the vil­lage of Brock­ley in west Suf­folk, sev­eral years ago. Now, she’d rather like to track it down.

“I could kick my­self,” she says. “I re­ally should have re­alised its sig­nif­i­cance and held on to it. But per­haps some­one out there still has it and could let me know.” The rea­son Heather’s so anx­ious get her hands on it, and many other out­fits she gave away, is be­cause for the past four years she’s been work­ing with the V&A Mu­seum on a ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion cel­e­brat­ing the life and work of Mary Quant. It opens in 2019 and will run into 2020, when Dame Mary Quant will cel­e­brate her 90th birth­day. It will chart her rise to suc­cess and share sto­ries from peo­ple who loved the Mary Quant brand and wore her dis­tinc­tive de­signs in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The mu­seum is en­list­ing the pub­lic to help track down Mary Quant gar­ments and gather sto­ries. Heather be­lieves there could be quite a few items lurk­ing in wardrobes, lofts and at­tics in Suf­folk.

“In the early days Mary Quant was mostly sold in Lon­don,” she ex­plains, “but a few se­lected bou­tiques out­side the cap­i­tal were al­lowed to sell gar­ments and one of them was in South­wold. We haven’t been able to find out who that was, so far – per­haps we will – but it leads us to think that quite a few Mary Quant items must have found their way to jum­ble

sales, char­ity shops and the like in Suf­folk – in­clud­ing my out­fit. Is it still out there some­where?”

Heather, who has lived a few miles from Bury St Ed­munds since the 1970s, han­dled Mary Quant’s pub­lic re­la­tions, both di­rectly and in­di­rectly, for a to­tal of 13 years, in the for­ma­tive 1960s, and again in the 1970s when she be­came a board mem­ber, to­gether with five oth­ers in­clud­ing Mary, her hus­band, Alexan­der Plun­ket Greene, and Archie McNair, the chair­man.

“The only rea­son I left to­wards the end of the 1970s was to start my own PR and mar­ket­ing busi­ness, some­thing I’d al­ways wanted to do. My first client was Viyella, which sub­se­quently had the li­cence to make Mary Quant gar­ments. If I hadn’t had that pe­riod work­ing so closely with Mary Quant

I don’t think my busi­ness would have taken off as it did. I’m hugely grate­ful to Mary, Archie and Alex.”

The idea for the V&A ex­hi­bi­tion came to Heather while she was re­cu­per­at­ing from an ac­ci­dent while walk­ing her dog on Hard­wick Heath, out­side Bury St Ed­munds. “A dog can­noned into me and broke my leg in three places.” While she was re­cov­er­ing

‘Mary Quant’s de­signs de­fined the look of the era’

in hospi­tal, a friend brought her a 2012 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of Mary Quant. Heather wasn’t im­pressed by some of its less than ac­cu­rate ac­counts of the de­signer’s life. It was time, she be­lieved, that the na­tion recog­nised Mary Quant’s gi­gan­tic achieve­ments, and her con­tri­bu­tion to Bri­tain’s cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion since the 1950s, with a ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion and a book. Luck­ily, Tris­tram Hunt, di­rec­tor of the V&A, agreed.

Mary Quant’s far-reach­ing in­flu­ence on Bri­tish life can­not be over­es­ti­mated. She is syn­ony­mous with the enor­mous so­cial change that up­ended Bri­tain in the decades fol­low­ing World War II. Along with mu­sic and art, fashion be­came an im­por­tant part of the way that young peo­ple found their iden­tity. Be­fore Mary Quant, young peo­ple dressed like their par­ents. But she gave them a style and di­rec­tion all their own. Min­i­mal, an­drog­y­nous, graphic, it freed Bri­tain’s youth from the for­mal, tai­lored, debu­tante clothes of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Her de­signs de­fined the look of the era. But as the ex­hi­bi­tion will show, Mary Quant was more than a very tal­ented de­signer with a knack for tap­ping into the zeit­geist. She was an en­tre­pre­neur, with an abil­ity to at­tract the right peo­ple – Archie McNair, whose King’s Road cof­fee bar, The Fan­tasie, was the cen­tre of Chelsea life, and Alexan­der Plun­ket Greene, who she met at Gold­smith’s Col­lege of Art and later mar­ried. “They made a very strong, close-knit team,” says Heather. “It’s the rea­son they en­dured. All three brought their own skills to grow the busi­ness.” And it did grow. The Bazaar shops, tights, cos­met­ics, shoes and boots, But­t­er­ick paper pat­terns, home­wares, sta­tionery, and, of course, the Ginger Group – ev­ery­one could have a bit of Mary Quant. So, turn out your ward­brobes, rum­mage in your at­tics. If there’s some­thing Mary Quant in there, par­tic­u­larly early Mary Quant dresses, Heather and the V&A want to know about it. Get in touch by email­ing maryquant@vam.ac.ukN

ABOVE: Mary QuantRIGHT: Satin mini-dress and shorts by Mary Quant. The V&A is look­ing for rare, one-off de­signs sold be­tween 1955 and 1960, early ex­per­i­men­tal gar­ments in PVC, styles from 1964 and 1965 with Peter Pan col­lars, knitwear, swimwear and ac­ces­sories, garmets made in Mary Quant But­t­er­ick pat­terns.

ABOVE:Mary Quant (fore­ground), with mod­els show­ing her new shoe cre­ations.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.