British fashion designer Dame Mary Quant dies aged 93

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Fashion designer Dame Mary Quant, who was widely credited with popularising the mini skirt, has died at the age of 93, her family said.

The British fashion designer died peacefully at her home in Surrey on Thursday morning, a statement from her family to the PA news agency said.

Her clothes were popularised by famous faces including model Jean Shrimpton, photographer and model Pattie Boyd, Cilla Black and Twiggy, with Boyd remembering her as a “true icon” following the news of her death.

She wrote: “Very sad news today to learn of the passing of the 60s daringly creative, fun genius, much-loved lady, Dame Mary Quant.

“Mary insisted on making George’s and my wedding coats in 1966; his, Black Mongolian Fur and mine, Red Fox. A true icon. RIP.”

Born in south-east London on February 11 1930, Dame Mary was the daughter of two Welsh school teachers.

She gained a diploma in the 1950s in Art Education at Goldsmith’s College, where she met her husband Alexander Plunket Greene, who later helped establish her brand, he died in 1990. The designer is survived by her son Orlando, three grandchildren and her brother Tony Quant.

A statement from the family said: “Dame Mary Quant died peacefully at home in Surrey, UK, this morning.

“Dame Mary, aged 93, was one of the most internationally recognised fashion designers of the 20th century and an outstanding innovator of the Swinging Sixties.”

Mary Quant receives her OBE
Mary Quant at Buckingham Palace after receiving an OBE at her investiture (PA)

Professor Frances Corner, warden of Goldsmiths, University of London, added: “Dame Mary was a pioneer who made an indelible mark on society through her visionary work.”

Prof Corner added that she was “one of the original disruptors whose trend-setting work changed the way we thought as well as how we dressed.

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

Dame Mary was taken on as an apprentice to a milliner before making her own clothes and in 1955 opened Bazaar, a boutique on the King’s Road in Chelsea.

Mary Quant death
Mary Quant (foreground), with models showing her new shoe creations in 1967 (PA)

She was one of the most influential figures in the fashion scene of the 1960s and is credited with making fashion accessible to the masses with her sleek, streamlined and vibrant designs.

Among her collection, she is arguably best known for conceiving the mini skirt as well as helping to develop the mod style in the 1960s.

She began experimenting with shorter hemlines in the late 1950s, culminating in the creation of one of the defining fashions of the following decade.

In 2014, Dame Mary, who named the skirt after her favourite make of car, recalled its “feeling of freedom and liberation”.

She said: “It was the girls on King’s Road who invented the mini. I was making clothes which would let you run and dance and we would make them the length the customer wanted.

“I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘shorter, shorter’.”

Other styles from the 1960s included Peter Pan collars, as well as knitwear, swimwear and accessories and garments made using Butterick patterns.

Mary Quant death
Dame Mary Quant was one of the most influential figures in the fashion scene of the 1960s and is credited with making fashion accessible to the masses with her sleek, streamlined and vibrant designs (Yui Mok/PA)

She broke into the American market in 1962 following a deal with US department store chain JC Penny for clothing and underwear design.

From that point onward, she was inundated with requests for designs in various fields from Britain, Europe and US.

In 1964, she launched her own cosmetics brand. She resigned as the director of the company in 2000 after a Japanese buyout which soon produced more than 200 Mary Quant Colour shops in Japan.

She was made a dame for services to British fashion in the 2015 Queen’s New Year list and was appointed a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the most recent New Year Honours list.

The special award is granted to those who have made a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine or government.

She was also awarded the prestigious Hall of Fame Award by the British Fashion Council for her contribution to British fashion in 1990.

In 2021, actress and film producer Sadie Frost created a fashion documentary about Dame Mary called Quant.

Contributions to the biographical film came from prominent figures in the world of fashion such as supermodel Kate Moss, designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, beauty entrepreneur and make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury, designer Jasper Conran and designer Dame Zandra Rhodes.

Mary Quant show
A V&A exhibition documenting the first 20 years of her career from 1955 to 1975 had had runs in London and in galleries across the world (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

At the time, Dame Mary said: “It was wonderfully exciting 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!”

Following the news of her death, Jenny Lister, the curator of the Dame Mary exhibition at the V&A, said the fashion world “owes so much to the revolutionary, trailblazing Mary Quant”.

In a statement to the PA news agency, Lister said: “It’s impossible to overstate Dame Mary Quant’s contribution to fashion.

“With her unique sense of humour, style, and determination to democratise and share the fun and creativity of her designs, she provided a new kind of role model for young women, creating a space for them to be themselves.”

She added that Dame Mary helped to define Britain’s global identity as a “centre of street style and innovation” with signature looks including PVC macs, colourful tights, the skinny-rib sweater, the mini skirt and her classic daisy logo.

“She blasted through barriers of snobbery and tradition, with her vision of fashion as a way of resisting stereotypes, with well-made clothes and cosmetics that were empowering and liberating, as well as affordable”, she added.

Alexandra Shulman, former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, also described the designer as a “visionary”.

She wrote on Twitter: “RIP Dame Mary Quant. A leader of fashion but also in female entrepreneurship- a visionary who was much more than a great haircut.”

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