Monday, November 19, 2018

The V&A Stages A Swinging ’60s Revival In Homage To Mary Quant

The countdown to Mary Quant is on. To mark ticket sales for the V&A's upcoming retrospective of the seminal Welsh designer and to raise awareness for its #WeWantQuant campaign – the call-out for archive Mary Quant pieces – the storied museum has staged a rather fabulous ’60s revival in London.

On November 15, 18 models – 10 of whom worked with Quant during her heyday – assembled in front of the V&A wearing original Quant clothing. The group, including Jill Kennington and Kari Ann Muller, boarded a London Routemaster inspired by the daisy-printed promotional bus Quant used for her cosmetics line, and took a trip down memory lane. Once back from the King’s Road, the home of Quant’s first store, a performance by ’60s Go-Go dance group The Meyer Dancers payed homage to the creative who liberated British women.

Why the literal song and dance? “In researching the exhibition, we developed a wide network of Mary Quant contacts,” co-curator of the exhibition Stephanie Wood tells Vogue. “These ’60s and ’70s models were particularly pleased to revive the spirit of the time with this fun and crazy event reflecting the atmosphere of Mary's shows.” The decision to pair Quant originals with contemporary models boiled down to the fact that “Mary's designs are as up-to-date now as they ever were”.

As well as the Daddy's Girl Peter Pan collar dresses, Miss Muffet and Banana Split styles worn by V&A’s Quant crew, the #WeWantQuant search has uncovered some rare examples of her work. “A very early and unlabelled blouse bought by a research scientist to meet her geologist fiancé returning from a trip in Antarctica" and "a PVC raincoat worn and lovingly kept by two generations of women in the same family” have been highlights, along with a “dress homemade from a Mary Quant dressmaking pattern for the wearer's 21st birthday.”

In fact, the response has been so overwhelming that the object list is now closed, and the curators are no longer on the hunt for lost Quant. “The call-out has transformed our exhibition,” Wood shares. “We have 35 garments from 30 individuals of the over 200 objects going on display.”

Opening its doors on April 6 2019, the exhibition will explore the years between 1955 and 1975, when the designer and fashion icon injected life into the high street through her subversive, graphic designs that freed women from rules and regulations. “Life was a whizz!" she wrote in her autobiography Quant by Quant. "It was such fun and unexpectedly wonderful despite, or perhaps because of, its intensity. We were so fortunate with our enormous luck and timing; we partied too – there were no real boundaries”. How fitting, then, that the V&A should stage its own celebration for her.

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