Mary Quant – Mods Subcultures

Mary Quant opened her first retail boutique in 1955 with the help of Plunkett-Green, former solicitor Archie McNair. She introduced the mod revolution and the “Chelsea look.” Her best selling creations were white pastic collars used to brighten up black dresses or T-shirts, and black stretch leggings.

Quant had a passion for making interesting pieces of clothing, and she wasn’t happy with what was on offer on the market at the time. She decided to stock her shop with everything she had made herself. She claims the miniskirt as her own creation, and this at the time contrasted against the stiff cultural and social ideologies at the time, which was perfect for the mods with there rebellious attitude to cultural conventions in the 1960s.

She describes the movement itself inadvertently: “At first we thought it was just the art student type that wanted to look like us and buy our clothes. But what we didn’t realise at the time and didn’t discover for some time was the fact that we were interpreting the mood of the whole generation, not just smart art students. The whole thing caught on in a much bigger way than we expected. we thought we were just working for people who lived in Chelsea, but the whole thing was actually what people wanted from all over.”

Knee-high, white, patent plastic, lace-up boots and tight, skinny rib sweaters in stripes and bold checks, this was all her own design and would go on to be identified as the “London look.”

The mid 1960s saw quant at the height of her fame, being half way through the mod revolution this would be about right. Around this time she created the micro-mini and the “paint box” makeup of 1966. She created the shiny, plastic raincoats using bold colours in contrast with older, more formal rain jackets that used black, white, grey, and green from the army, with connotations of formality. She was designing for a new, younger demographic and this can be seen with the strong contrast to existing clothing brands.


November 1965:  Chelsea fashion designer and make-up manufacturer Mary Quant.  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
November 1965: Chelsea fashion designer and make-up manufacturer Mary Quant. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

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