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. Mary Quant Biography

C
orrían los años sesenta y Londres se convertía en el lugar donde el mundo centraba toda su atención. Fue entonces cuando una diseñadora, Mary Quant, entró a la historia de la moda y causó furor con la presentación en sociedad de la minifalda, la pollera que terminaba quince centímetros encima de la rodilla. Esta mujer, que empezó a diseñar moda porque quería más libertad y menos reglas, pateó decididamente el tablero de la moda y las costumbres del mundo.

"Hoy, cada cual lleva lo que quiere, donde quiere y como quiere. Y eso me pone muy feliz", declaró recientemente esta dama millonaria que se sigue cortando el pelo como un cuadrado de líneas rectas con el famoso estilista Vidal Sassoon.

Haciendo oídos sordos a las quejas de las autoridades eclesiásticas, el 10 de julio de 1964, en medio de su colección de verano, Quant mostró por primera vez la prenda que se convirtió en fetiche y símbolo de la década del 60. Poco después, lanzó los minishorts o hot pants.

"En esos años las mujeres querían ser libres", afirmó a la revista fashion "Beautybiz". "Hoy la moda —agregó la diseñadora— es mucho más ambiciosa. Queremos todo, de lo clásico a lo salvaje, lo deportivo y lo elegante, de colores o blanco y negro. Y está muy bien que hayamos alcanzado esto".

Quant confiesa que "cada tanto sigue diseñando". Su lugar de trabajo es su casa y también la residencia de vacaciones que tiene en Francia. Su vocero asegura que siempre está al tanto de las tendencias de la moda. "Lleva la moda en la sangre", explica.

Ahora el principal negocio de Mary Quant Ltd. es la cosmética, aunque también los accesorios como ropa de cama, los pantys y la decoración de interiores. La firma del logo de la estilizada margarita es un éxito sobre todo en Japón donde hay más de 200 locales. Sin embargo, el interés no es tan grande en Londres, París y Nueva York donde la empresa tiene sólo una tienda.

Quant nació el 11 de febrero de 1934 en Kent, Inglaterra. Deambuló por trece colegios antes de entrar en la escuela de arte Goldsmith, donde supo que lo suyo era la moda. Trabajó por poco dinero como costurera en tiendas de alta costura y como diseñadora de sombreros.

A los 21 años, en octubre de 1955, ya casada con el trompetista y fotógrafo Alexander Plunket Greene, invirtió 10 mil libras esterlinas que había heredado y abrió un local propio en la calle King, de Londres. Lo llamó "Bazaar".

Interpretando en sí misma los sentimientos de otras jóvenes, a Quant no le gustaban ni un poco las prendas realizadas en casas de alta costura, que además sentía económicamente inalcanzables. Entonces comenzó a diseñar polleras cortísimas, que llegaban a medir entre 35 y 45 centímetros. Para sorpresa de muchos, la minifalda entró en el mercado rápidamente, tan popularizadas por la modelo británica Twiggy.

Además de la minifalda, realizó prendas y accesorios en materiales novedosos y lanzó una moda al alcance de cualquier mujer. Quant recibió premios en todo el mundo. En 1966 recibió la condecoración de la reina de Inglaterra.

Su esposo, Plunket Greene, la acompañó de cerca en su éxito laboral y financiero. Las ganancias de la pareja subieron rápidamente al ritmo de la producción de los retazos de telas mínimas. Pero en 1969 ambos decidieron cerrar sus tres tiendas en Londres y concentrarse en ampliar la gama de productos de la margarita. Tuvieron un hijo. Plunket Greene murió en 1990, a los 57 años.

Ella nunca quiso hacer otra cosa que diseñar. El año pasado declaró a la revista estadounidense "Vogue" que todo empezó porque tenía que ponerse los vestidos viejos de su prima. "No me quedaban, así que hacía mis propios vestidos. Primero modifiqué el uniforme de mi escuela y cada vez cortaba más la falda".

Sus diseños tan de moda en los 60, desde la minifalda hasta la combinación blanco—negro y las formas geométricas, están muy vigentes en la moda actual.

El diario "The Sunday Times" publicó: "Sólo unos pocos afortunados han nacido en el momento justo, en el lugar correcto y con el talento adecuado. En el mundo de la moda reciente hay tres: Chanel, Dior y Mary Quant". Esa es la frase que da la bienvenida a los visitantes del sitio web de Quant en maryquant.co.uk. Parece que la creadora de la minifalda y el minishort tiene de qué enorgullecerse y no reniega del automarketing.
 

 

Mary Quant nace en Londres Inglaterra en 1934 y su nombre personificó la revolución juvenil de los años '50 y '60. Hoy en día Mary Quant, no tiene el reconocimiento que merece dentro del mundo de la moda, a pesar de que su contribución fue muy importante. En los años '60, ella entendía perfectamente la necesidad de los cambios que estaba ocurriendo a nivel social, por lo que eso la hizo el nombre más famoso que alguna vez saliera de Londres. Estudió en el "Goldsmith's College of Art" en Londres. Allí conoció a Alexander Plunket. Se casaron en 1957 dos años después de abrir la primera tienda Bazaar en la "King's Road" en Londres. En sociedad con Archie McNair. Este talentoso trío impusieron un nuevo estilo en la venta de ropa para gente joven e hicieron del King's Road una mundialmente famosa atracción turística del que todavía se recuerda. Al inicio vendieron ropa diseñada por otros, pero debido a la falta de conocimiento que tenían estos acerca de las necesidades de los clientes jóvenes, fracasó. Empezó a diseñar su propia ropa. Estaba tan en línea con movimiento del momento que enseguida empezó a vender todos sus diseños. Si ella originó la mini-falda es ahora una pregunta menos importante. Es ella quién ciertamente popularizó su uso en la Gran Bretaña y en los Estados Unidos de Norte América.

Fue incluso quien hizo que las jóvenes ya no se quisieran vestir como sus madres. Diseñó trajes que las madres no pudieran vestir sin verse desastrosas. Con su comienzo la tradición de diseñar especialmente para adolescentes o aquellos que ya tenían veinte años es actualmente una industria enorme que sigue creciendo. Su negocio empezó en una pequeña escala. Los diseños que ella creó no tenían (classless and iconoclastic). Nunca tuvo miedo de violar las cánones del buen gusto. Su ropa era comprada por una generación con bastante poder de adquisición cuyas vestimentas eran el centro de la existencia. Ella decía: "por suerte...por oportunidad...talvez por error...estuvimos en algo enorme...un tremendo renacimiento en el mundo de la moda". En 1961 abrió su segundo Bazzar en "Knightsbridge", y para 1963 estaba exportando para los Estados Unidos. En ese año estuvo en una producción masiva con su línea "Ginger Group" y recibió un premio de la moda de "The Sunday Times". En 1966, cuando fue honrada con el premio O.B.E. (Order of The British Empire), fundó su imperio de cosméticos, que fué una máquina mundial de producción de dinero. En la década de los '70 su licencia creció e incluyó lencería, joyería, alfombras, corbatas para caballeros y lentes de sol. En 1973 el Museo de Londres le dio una retrospectiva que implica que sus días como líder creativa estaban descendiendo. Si fue o no una gran contribuidora en el mundo de la moda, nadie puede dejar de aclamar que es una pieza central en la revolución cultural que continúa hoy en día. Talvez su importancia social podría no ubicar su reputación como diseñadora. Su autobiografía Quant by Quant, fue publicada en Londres en 1966.


 

Mary Quant Biography - Source Answers
 

With her introduction of the miniskirt and new "mod" look, Mary Quant (born 1934) began a fashion revolution. Although her designs eventually faded in popularity, Quant's business expanded to include everything from carpet to swimsuits to toys.

(Mary Quant presentado tres diseños en los años 60, a la derecha)

Mary Quant was born February 11, 1934 in London, England to Welsh teachers. Her childhood was disrupted and colored by World War II-for the better, she later recalled in her 1966 autobiography Quant by Quant. "Almost my first clear memory is the day we were evacuated from Blackheath to a village in Kent," she wrote. That village, on the east coast of England, placed the family directly beneath the path of enemy planes flying over the coast on their way to bomb London. "Because we had no understanding of the grim tragedies of war," she remembered, "this was tremendous fun." She would run with her brother, Tony, and friends to investigate and ransack crashed planes, taking everything they could carry. "Our prize possession was some poor pilot's thumb which had been shot off and which we carefully preserved in vinegar in an airtight bottle," she gleefully noted.

Quant's schooling was random as her parents moved the family around the countryside, seeking teaching jobs and safety. At one point, Quant's parents sent her away to a "very proper, very correct, absolutely heartless" boarding school near Tunbridge Wells. Normally, however, she was near her family, finding all manner of mischief with Tony. While living on the coast one summer, Quant and her brother formed a business teaching rich visitors to sail. When the weather didn't allow boating, Quant wrote in Quant by Quant, she stayed home and sewed. "I think I always knew that what I wanted to do most of all was to make clothes … clothes that would be fun to wear. As a very small child, I had idolized a little girl we knew who took tap dancing lessons and wore very skinny black sweaters, short black pleated skirts and long black tights, white ankle socks and black patent ankle strap shoes," Quant recalled. "How I envied her!" Her artistic expression was flavored with the same measure of mischief found in her other pursuits. "When I was about six and in bed with measles," she wrote, "I spent one night cutting up the bedspread with nail scissors. Even at that age I could see that the wild color of the bedspread would make a super dress."

After completing her primary education in 1951, Quant's parents encouraged her to begin pursuing a career. "It was made absolutely clear to both of us from the start that we would have to earn our own livings," she wrote. "My parents never even considered the possibility that marriage might be a way out for girls. I was made terribly aware that it was entirely my own responsibility to make a success of my life."

Enrolled in Art School

Unfortunately, Quant's idea of a career path didn't quite match her parents' expectations. They wanted her to choose a sturdy, practical vocation. "It was only with the greatest difficulty that I ever persuaded them to allow me to go to art school," she related in Quant by Quant. "It was only when I managed to win a scholarship to Goldsmiths' that I was able to persuade them to agree to a compromise … if they would allow me to go to Goldsmiths', I would take the Art Teachers' Diploma."

With her parents' qualified permission, Quant enrolled at Goldsmiths' College of Art in London. Almost immediately she met Alexander Plunket Greene, who became her business partner and, later, husband. Her classmates, including Greene, were an education unto themselves, she wrote. "It was only when I went to Goldsmiths' that, for the first time in my life, I realized that there are people who give their lives to the pursuit of pleasure and indulgence of every kind in preference to work," Quant marveled. "At first it was a shock even to me; to my parents, such a thing was incomprehensible." Quant spent several years reveling in the atmosphere of Goldsmiths', but left after failing to earn her Art Teachers' Diploma. She took a job working for a Danish milliner, earning such a tiny salary she ate only occasionally.

Opened Bazaar

Meanwhile, Greene and Quant had paired up with a friend named Archie McNair. When Greene inherited 5,000 pounds on his 21st birthday, the three decided to go into business together. They rented Markham House, a three-story building on King's Road in London's artist district, Chelsea. In Markham House, they opened a boutique on the first floor and a restaurant in the basement. They called the boutique Bazaar. Its owners knew little about the business beyond Quant's fashion philosophy: "I can't bear over-accessorization … a white hat worn with white gloves, white shoes and a white umbrella," she declared in Quant by Quant. "Rules are invented for lazy people who don't want to think for themselves."

True to her philosophy, Quant searched for the clothes she herself wanted to wear, selling miniskirts, funky dresses, bright tights and bras called Booby Traps to young people. The shop capitalized on the buying power of baby boomers, those born during the sharp increase in birthrate following the end of World War II, who were beginning to grow into teenagers.

Naive about the mechanics of running a retail business, Quant and her partners sold their wares with a markup much smaller than any nearby store, without realizing they were actually taking a loss on many items. "It was no wonder we did such a roaring trade the moment we opened," she later wrote. "The shop was constantly stripped bare-sometimes we hardly had enough to dress the window-because we never bought enough of anything."

Quant quickly discovered that manufacturers weren't making the kinds of clothes she wanted to sell, so she set up her own manufacturing outfit in her apartment, hiring a dressmaker to come during the day and help. Quant herself sewed dresses at night to sell the next day in the shop. "I had to sell one day's output before I had the money to go out and buy more material," she recalled, noting that at first, "I didn't think of myself as a designer. I just knew that I wanted to concentrate on finding the right clothes for the young to wear and the right accessories to go with them."

Struggling to make ends meet and suffering ridicule from the press and some passers-by, Quant persevered. In less than ten years, her clothing designs was world famous, selling in 150 shops in Britain, 320 stores in the United States, and throughout the world: France, Italy, Switzerland, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and more.

Branched Out

In 1957, Quant and her business partner, Alexander Plunket Greene, were married. In 1970, they had a son, Orlando. "We had an awful wedding," she recounted in Quant by Quant. "The Registrar, or whoever it was, put on a sanctified Dearly Beloved voice; he treated us in an impossibly pompous manner and went purple in the face with the effort."

Shortly thereafter, they decided to take another plunge, and opened a second shop, this one in the more swank Knightsbridge neighborhood. Soon, their production shifted into even higher gear when, in 1963, Quant was approached to design a line for J.C. Penney, at that time the biggest retail chain in the United States. Quant was selected to give the stores a more up-to-date image, with her bright, geometric printed dresses. "It was the first time ever that the clothes of a named British designer had been promoted throughout a large chain of stores across the States," Quant recalled. "It was exciting but worrying too."

Mod Look is Worldwide Phenomenon

She needen't have worried. Suddenly available on a mass scale, the "mod" look took the fashion world by storm. "I really believe that when the whole thing had first been planned, it had been looked upon purely as a promotional idea," she disclosed in Quant by Quant. The store's managers decided to stick with Quant as they watched sales soar.

With the flood of Quant designs came a change in the way women dress. "Fashion had always been dictated from above, by Parisian couturiers and other authorities," wrote William L. O'Neill in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960s. Fashion "was a monopoly of the rich. But in the sixties it was the young, and relatively unknown designers like Quant and Gernreich who catered to them, who set the pace.… Not since the 1920s had women's clothing changed so radically. No one could remember when the flow of fashion had been reversed on such a scale." Quant herself, in her autobiography, echoed the same sentiment. "There was a time when clothes were a sure sign of a woman's social position and income group. Not now," she wrote in 1966. "Snobbery has gone out of fashion, and in our shops you will find duchesses jostling with typists to buy the same dress."

Even as she was changing the look of women worldwide, Quant was getting a crash course in the fashion business. "We were not the first to find out it doesn't always pay to be first in the field," she wrote. "The pioneer is the one who makes the mistakes, discovers the snags and prepares the ground for those who more cautiously follow after." Case in point was Quant's foray into clothing made from PVC, a vinyl material. She designed a line in PVC and orders piled up, but Quant's manufacturers' machines couldn't sew the material.

Despite the setbacks, Quant won a prestigious Sunday Times Fashion Award, shocking an entire industry that had previously been ruled by couture houses selling expensive, made-to-order clothes by famous designers. Quant's place in fashion history was secured when the London Museum mounted its 1973 retrospective exhibit, "Mary Quant's London."

Quant Empire Grew

Although Quant's designs eventually faded in popularity, the business continued to expand to include everything from carpet to swimsuits to toys. In 1983, she launched "Mary Quant at Home," a line of household furnishings featuring wall paper and china, based around a chosen color scheme. Color, in the form of cosmetics, was her lasting passion. In Quant by Quant, she explained her entrance into the field: "In the fifties, there was no makeup around that I wanted to wear," she told Vogue's Gully Wells. "So I started experimenting with crayons. The best were Caran d'Ache colored pencils. … Then the models started using theatrical makeup to get the look they wanted, so finally I decided to start producing my own line in 1966." Quant ultimately focused her energy almost entirely on her cosmetics line, which sold worldwide but was most popular in Japan, where, by the mid-1990s, Quant had more than 200 stores. Besides her autobiography, she had penned two additional books: Colour by Quant, published in 1984, and Quant on Make-up, in 1986.

Further Reading

Contemporary Designers, 2nd edition, edited by Colin Naylor, St.James Press, 1990.

McDowell, Colin, McDowell's Directory of Twentieth Century Fashion, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1985.

Quant, Mary, Quant by Quant G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1966.

Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Fairchild Publications, 1988.

Vare, Ethlie Ann and Greg Ptacek, Mothers of Invention: From the Bra to the Bomb: Forgotten Women & Their Unforgettable Ideas William Morrow and Company, 1988.

Management, September 1997.

Vogue, July 1995; February 1999.

"Mary Quant," A&E Network Biography, http://www.biography.com (March 2, 1999).
 


 

 

 

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