I first read this book when I was writing my MA dissertation 5 years ago (a battered old copy I borrowed from the library) so I was delighted when the V&A got in touch saying the book was being re-released, and asking if I wanted to see a review copy. Quant by Quant. The autobiography of Mary Quant covers the early years of Mary Quant's life: from growing up during the Second World War through to the early success of the Mary Quant brand in America, via her marriage to Alexander Plunkett Green and the infamous Bazaar days.
Admittedly I prefer the original cover, but excluding a brand new foreword from Quant herself, the contents of the two books are exactly the same.
Mary Quant helped define the world of British fashion. Regardless of how I feel about her now (you can read more about my interview with her here) she certainly was an icon of her time: a pioneer in mass production in the UK, and one of the first British designers to conquer the states. This autobiography definitely gives a real insight into how the Quant empire came into being: and this was a surprisingly haphazard process that could never be recreated now. To start with all of the fabrics for the dresses stocked in Bazaar, for example, came from Harrods, because Quant and Plunkett Green didn't know how to buy wholesale fabric.
This book is great because it makes you feel like you are experiencing the changes and the pop culture of the 'swinging sixties' from the inside: Quant shares what it was like to be there, tells tales of her favourite fashion journalists of the time, and even her stories about air travel and fashion export during the sixties are fascinating. Because I have a personal interest in Quant, I particularly enjoyed the first section of the book, reading about her childhood and how this shaped the woman she went on to become.
The optimism of the book is overwhelming, due in part to its original mid-Sixties release date(It was first published in 1966) when the Quant brand was still riding high and it seemed nothing could go wrong. This makes in an exhilarating read, especially if you know that just ten years later, the empire will collapse into a pile of cliche, leaving nothing but the make-up brand to survive in its wake. Nonetheless, the Quant that writes this book is in equal parts naive but business-savvy, and ultimately very very likable.
I could talk about this book all day, but really you should check it out for yourself. If you have any interest in the history of British Fashion as we know it now, the sixties, or Mary Quant then I heartily recommend you read this book. Now, now, now! I've just run through it for the second time, and am still as fascinated now as I have always been.
You can buy the book from vandabooks.com for £8.99. If you would prefer an e-copy, that's due for release later this month.
Love Tor x