V&A to stage first Mary Quant retrospective in 50 years

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum has announced it is working on a comprehensive exhibition of Mary Quant’s designs in the first retrospective on the revolutionary fashion designer in nearly 50 years.


Mary Quant and models at the Quant Afoot footwear collection launch in 1967 - Photo: V&A

Opening in April 2019, the exhibition will focus on the years between 1955 and 1975, when the British designer revolutionised the high street with her hotpants, miniskirts and trousers for women, completely challenging the formal ‘debutant styles’ of previous generations.

Over 200 pieces will go on display, including objects from the V&A’s extensive fashion holdings, the designer’s personal archive and important international loans. But the exhibition will also look beyond clothing to share real stories from those who loved the Mary Quant brand. Archive sketches, patterns, cosmetics and fashion magazines will further complement the show.

“Mary Quant liberated fashion in the late 1950s and early 60s. Known for establishing high street fashion, inventing hotpants and popularising the miniskirt, she freed women from rules and regulations, and from dressing like their mothers. This long-overdue exhibition will show how Mary made high fashion affordable for working women, and how her youthful, revolutionary clothes, inspired by London, made British street style the global influence it remains today,” said Jenny Lister, curator of the exhibition at the V&A.

Mary Quant addedd: “The V&A is such a precious and iconic organisation for which I have the utmost admiration and respect, and it is a huge honour to be recognised by them with this dedicated exhibition and book. It was a wonderfully exciting time and despite the frenetic, hard work we had enormous fun. We didn’t necessarily realise that what we were creating was pioneering, we were simply too busy relishing all the opportunities and embracing the results before rushing on to the next challenge! Friends have been extremely generous in loaning, and in many cases, donating garments and accessories to the V&A which they have lovingly cherished for many years, so it will be fascinating to see what else will emerge!”

The museum has launched a public call-out to track down rare Mary Quant garments, like early one-off designs sold between 1955 and 1969 in Quant’s Bazaar boutiques, experimental garments in PVC, and Mary Quant swimwear, knitwear and accessories.

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