V&A announces first Mary Quant exhibition in 50 years and is calling for lost designs

Mary Quant and models at the Quant Afoot footwear collection launch, 1967 © PA Prints 2008

Today, the V&A has revealed that it has been given unprecedented access to Dame Mary Quant’s Archive to curate the first international retrospective on the revolutionary fashion designer in nearly 50 years.

Opening in April 2019, the exhibition will focus on the years between 1955 and 1975, when Quant revolutionised the high street with her subversive and playful designs for a younger generation, from hot pants, miniskirts and trousers for women to accessories, tights and make-up.

The show will bring together over 200 objects, the majority of which have never been on public display. It will reveal the real stories behind the myths to explore how Quant democratised fashion and empowered women through her determination, ingenuity and unique personal style, which she exported around the world. All drawn from the V&A’s extensive fashion holdings, which includes the largest collection of Mary Quant garments in the world, as well as the designer’s personal archive and important international loans.

"It was a wonderfully exciting time and despite the frenetic, hard work we had enormous fun," says Dame Mary Quant. "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!

"Friends have been extremely generous in loaning, and in many cases, donating garments and accessories to the V&A which they have lovingly cherished for many years, so it will be fascinating to see what else will emerge. I am enormously grateful to have been involved with so many talented people whose contribution to that ground-breaking, revolutionary and memorable era will also be recognised."

The V&A exhibition will chart Mary Quant’s rise to success, yet also share real stories from those who loved the Mary Quant brand and wore her distinctive designs in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

To help the V&A bring the exhibition further to life, the museum is launching a public call-out to track down rare Mary Quant garments and gather these personal stories. Garments that the V&A is looking for include: rare and early one-off designs sold between 1955 and 1960 in Quant’s renowned Bazaar boutiques; early experimental garments in PVC, especially from Quant’s 'Wet' collection, unveiled in 1963, when the material was still a work-in-progress; seminal styles from 1964 and 1965 with Peter Pan collars; Mary Quant knitwear, swimwear and accessories, and garments made using Mary Quant Butterick patterns.

To unearth these elusive garments, capture these amazing stories, and for the chance to feature in the exhibition, the V&A is urging people to get in touch by email at [email protected], and to share their pictures and memories on social media, using the hashtag #WeWantQuant.

Three models wearing underwear designed by Mary Quant, c. 1966 © Otfried Schmidt/ullstein bild/Getty Images

Three models wearing underwear designed by Mary Quant, c. 1966 © Otfried Schmidt/ullstein bild/Getty Images

Satin mini-dress and shorts by Mary Quant, photograph by Duffy, 1966 © Duffy Archive

Satin mini-dress and shorts by Mary Quant, photograph by Duffy, 1966 © Duffy Archive

Fashion model Ika posing with Mary Quant's new collection of shoes, 6 April 1972 © Roger Jackson/Central Press/Getty Images

Fashion model Ika posing with Mary Quant's new collection of shoes, 6 April 1972 © Roger Jackson/Central Press/Getty Images

Mary Quant at her apartment in Draycott Place, Chelsea, London, c.1965 © Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images

Mary Quant at her apartment in Draycott Place, Chelsea, London, c.1965 © Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images