Mini skirt pioneer and fashion designer Dame Mary Quant has 'died peacefully' aged 93

Dame Mary Quant was one of the most influential figures in the fashion scene of the 1960s, ITV News Entertainment Editor Nina Nannar reports

Fashion designer Dame Mary Quant has died aged 93.

Dame Mary 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.

A statement from her family said she “died peacefully at home" in Surrey on Thursday morning.

The statement read: “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.”

Alexandra Shulman, former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, paid tribute writing 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.”

Mary Quant at work in London, 1963. Credit: AP

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 Goldsmiths College, where she met her husband Alexander Plunket Greene, who later helped establish her brand.

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 Kings Road in Chelsea.

Her success was so pronounced that she opened up another location in the no less fashionable London Street, Knightsbridge, and by 1961 she was exporting to the United States.

To keep up with the huge demand for her fashions, she went into mass production and set up what she called the Ginger Group to boost sales.

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

While Paris designers, led by Christian Dior's New Look, dominated the fashion scene, these luxury labels were affordable largely only to rich, older women and out of reach to most people in a post-war era marked by rationing and austerity.

Quant's designs, in contrast, were less exclusive and, although not cheap, accessible to a new generation - who would save for months to buy one of her dresses.

Her far-sighted and creative talents quickly established a unique contribution to British fashion.

The colourful, energetic and rebellious designs shook up a silted fashion scene where young women dressed like their mothers and grandmothers.

Dame Mary also revolutionised the high street with hot pants, and trousers for women, as well as accessories, tights and make-up, while using the daisy brand design that became synonymous with her creations.

Quant with a group of models showcasing her designs in 1967. Credit: PA Archive

Her clothes were popularised by Jean Shrimpton, Pattie Boyd, Cilla Black and Twiggy.

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

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 and the “dangerously short” micro-mini skirt, as well as “paint box” make-up and plastic raincoats.

She resigned as director of Mary Quant Ltd, her cosmetic company, 12 years later after a Japanese buyout and there were soon more than 200 Mary Quant Colour shops in Japan.

Dame Mary, who was also a Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers and winner of the Minerva Medal, the society’s highest award, was made an OBE in 1966 for services to the fashion industry.

In 2014, she was made a dame for services to British fashion in the Queen’s New Year list.

She said at the time: “I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded this terrific honour.

"It is extremely gratifying that my work in the fashion industry has been recognised and acknowledged in such a significant way.”

In 2020, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum about Dame Mary’s fashion proved a hit with the public.

Models posing on the steps of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, during a photo call for the Mary Quant exhibition. Credit: PA

It was visited 400,000 times and was said at the time to be the third most visited fashion exhibition in the museum’s history.

The exhibition showcased more than 120 garments, the majority of which had never been on display before, as well as accessories, cosmetics, sketches and photographs.

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!”

She was appointed a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the 2023 New Year Honours list for services to fashion.

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