Here is a fashion documentary celebrating designer Mary Quant as a trailblazing fashion rebel and icon of the swinging 1960s. (Coming of fashion age in the 90s, I always associated her with eyeshadow in unappealing shades of purple in the makeup department at Debenhams.) It’s an entertaining, uncontroversial film directed by the actor Sadie Frost, who pulls in her celeb mates to do talking-head duties: Vogue editor Edward Enninful, Kinks guitarist Dave Davies, and even interview-shy Kate Moss gives a quote or two.
Like Coco Chanel, Quant had an instinct for designing clothes that women wanted to wear. In the 50s, her first job after art school was working for a snobby Mayfair milliner. She rebelled: “I didn’t want to look like a duchess.” In 1955, Quant and her husband, Alexander Plunket Greene, opened a boutique in Chelsea. She made clothes for the youthquake generation – young working women with jobs, pay cheques, the pill and a taste of freedom. Quant gave them flat shoes to run and dance in, colourful tights, PVC macs and the miniskirt (there’s a bit here on the hoo-ha over who actually invented the mini: Quant or the French designer André Courrèges). Quant herself was at the centre of her look; she was the best advert for her clothes, with her trademark Vidal Sassoon bob. The story that emerges here is that, guided by her business manager Archie McNair, Quant grew her brand in modern, innovative ways. Her makeup line made a packet, but there were too many product categories (Mary Quant wine, enigiemand?) and McNair licensed the brand to the hilt.
Nou 91, Quant does not appear: her total retirement from fashion circles perhaps explains why she doesn’t enjoy the grande dame status of, sê, Vivienne Westwood. The actor Camilla Rutherford plays Quant in a reconstruction and Frost has sourced a couple of cracking archive interviews. In one from the 60s, a male TV interviewer says that few women have the legs to pull off mini skirts “majestically”. Quant looks appalled, and replies witheringly: “Who wants to be majestic?”