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Miniskirt pioneer Mary Quant, queen of Swinging London, dies at 93

Quant was also credited with creating hot pants, the skinny-rib sweater and waterproof mascara
Last Updated : 13 April 2023, 17:12 IST
Last Updated : 13 April 2023, 17:12 IST

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Fashion designer Mary Quant, the style queen of Britain's Swinging Sixties who popularised the miniskirt, died on Thursday aged 93, her family said, prompting a flood of tributes.

Whether Quant actually invented the then scandalously short skirts has long been disputed, with French designer Andre Courreges insisting he was the first to raise hemlines high on the thigh.

But there is no doubt that without Quant, the mini would not have become an icon of 1960s youth rebellion.

The diminutive designer -- whose trademark bob was styled by Vidal Sassoon -- was also credited with creating hot pants, the skinny-rib sweater and waterproof mascara.

Alexandra Shulman, former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, called her a "visionary" while Britain's V&A design museum paid tribute to her "trailblazing" legacy.

"It's impossible to overstate Quant's contribution to fashion," the museum said on Twitter.

"She was one of the original disruptors, whose trend-setting work changed the way we thought as well as how we dressed," added Professor Frances Corner of London's Goldsmiths college, where Quant studied.

"This profound impact took us from the black and white world of the 1950s to the technicolour brilliance of the 1960s and beyond."

Quant opened her first boutique, Bazaar, in 1955 with her future husband and business partner Alexander Plunket Greene, who died in 1990.

Located in Chelsea, which would become the beating heart of Swinging London, the shop sold clothes and accessories and its basement restaurant became a meeting point for young people and artists.

The whole Chelsea district was soon attracting celebrities such as the actors Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn and pop stars including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Quant raised hemlines well above the knee, creating short dresses and skirts with simple shapes and strong colours that she described as "arrogant, aggressive and sexy".

"Good taste is death, vulgarity is life," she told The Guardian.

Her models were showcased in provocative window displays overlooking the King's Road, which became a miniskirt catwalk and drew American photographers keen to capture Swinging London.

"City gents in bowler hats beat on our shop window with their umbrellas shouting 'Immoral!' and 'Disgusting!' at the sight of our miniskirts over the tights, but customers poured in to buy," she recalled in her 1966 book "Quant by Quant".

The designer was also widely quoted as saying that "it was the girls on the King's Road who invented the mini... I wore them very short and the customers would say, 'Shorter, shorter'".

The era's most high-profile model Lesley Lawson, better known as Twiggy, made the miniskirt popular abroad, and with business booming, Quant opened a second shop in London in 1957.

She explored geometric designs, polka dots and contrasting colours, and played with new fabrics, including PVC and stretch fabrics, to achieve a modern and playful look.

She entered the American market in the early 1960s, collaborating with department store JC Penney. She also created the cheaper Ginger Group line and went into cosmetics, all her designs featuring a trademark daisy.

Quant also scandalised British society with her frank views on sex, making headlines when she famously said she had shaved her pubic hair into the shape of a heart and dyed it green.

Although her heyday was in the 1960s and 1970s, when she turned her sights on the Japanese market, Quant's legacy can still be seen on the high street, with its high fashion at low prices.

She sold her make-up company to a Japanese group in 2000, staying on as consultant.

Alongside making it in America, Quant considered being knighted in 2015 her greatest achievement, and called Queen Elizabeth II, who made her a dame, "the wisest woman I've ever met".

Asked by The Guardian in 2016 what she would change if she could edit her past, Quant replied: "Not much, I've had a lovely time."

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Published 13 April 2023, 17:12 IST

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