Skip to main content

Search sources

Mary Quant's Enduring Legacy

Mary Quant's Enduring Legacy
18 March 2020

Heather Tilbury Phillips, Bury St Edmunds U3A, speaker at the postponed Mary Quant National U3A Event talks about Mary's enduring legacy.

In 1967, I joined a company called Kangol who had the licensing for Mary Quant berets. As a result, I got to know Mary, Alexander and the Mary Quant team quite well. When I left Kangol, Mary asked me to join the company at Head Office to do the Marketing and PR. I worked with her during the 70s, subsequently becoming Director of the company. I was both directly and indirectly involved with Mary Quant Limited for about 13 years, before leaving to start my own Marketing and PR company.

I’ve been involved with various Mary Quant events, including the V&A exhibition that just finished in London. I was concerned that Mary wasn’t really being credited with all the things she achieved in her career. I went to the V&A and talked to them initially about a book, to which I would contribute. After doing some research, I told them there was too much material for just a book and it would have to be an exhibition as well. They were enthusiastic and that’s how the Mary Quant exhibition happened in London.

I think what the V&A did so brilliantly was bring it home to people just how pioneering, forward thinking and directional Mary always was.

The reason Mary’s style is so influential was, initially I think, because it was such fun. Her clothes were life-changing for a generation that had just lived through the war. They were still young and they wanted clothes that were different to what their mothers wore.

She realised the importance of colour and easy to wear fabric. Although she is credited for inventing the mini, she always says it was her customers who demanded shorter and shorter skirts which she, herself, wore. Mary had fabulous legs and she loved wearing short skirts! She also had the far-sightedness to realise that you couldn’t wear short skirts if you were wearing suspenders and stockings so she went to the hosiery manufacturers and told them to make tights in bright colours that went with the outfits. That enabled the skirts to be shorter.

She was monumental in helping the post-war generation be more adventurous in what they wore: to feel the freedom, the excitement, the challenge that there hadn’t been during that post-war austerity.

It didn’t stop at clothes. Cosmetics hadn’t really changed in a long time which is why she introduced Mary Quant cosmetics. They came up with these wonderful names for the products. The foundation, which was translucent and not thick like foundations before it, was called ‘Starkers.’ She demanded the manufacturers create a waterproof mascara, which they called 'Crybaby.' It’s difficult to remember how revolutionary that was. We take it for granted for now. That’s the same for so many of the things she introduced.

She gave encouragement and confidence to people and there was no reason why any of them couldn’t actually follow in her footsteps. We were a very small group working together. She was always open to ideas, she’d bounce thoughts and suggestions off of us and ask for our input. That was wonderfully meaningful and inspiring.

At the U3A event, I will explain how she started, how the business grew, showing of course slide presentations and some of the key events from her very long career.

Note: The National Event, celebrating Mary Quant’s life and career, and taking place at the Museum of Fashion has been postponed. Due to its popularity, the National Event Co-Ordinator is hoping to arrange the event in the Autumn. When this is arranged, it will be announced via the Events page on the website and on our National Newsletter.

Previous & Next Articles in this category

Previous & Next Articles in this category