An iconic photograph of fashion designer Mary Quant taken in 1966 has been recreated by V&A Dundee and DJCAD, ahead of the opening of its first major fashion exhibition celebrating the influential designer (Thursday 27 August).
The new images shot on location at the museum (before it temporarily closed) feature new textiles created by five emerging designers from the School of Art & Design, inspired by the work of Mary Quant, who changed the fashion system, overturning the dominance of Paris couturiers and transforming young women like her into the new leaders of style.
Lucy Carrie, Emer Dobson, Sandra Junele, Humaira Khan and Jane Neave, all third year Textile Design students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, were presented with an opportunity to work with V&A Dundee earlier this year as part of a project titled 21st Century Quant, examining Mary Quant’s design legacy.
The new designers were asked to create textiles inspired by Quant’s 1960s rebellion, but also that responded to the big issues facing today’s fashion world. Detailed research and experimentation led them to explore urgent themes such as climate change, consumerism, and racism.
The textiles were then transformed into four dresses made to the exact specification of an original Mary Quant Butterick dressmaking pattern. The knitted cape designed by textile design student Sandra Junele was inspired by Quant’s famous Alligator cape and references the importance of repurposing clothing waste in response to the problems caused by fast fashion and over-consumption.
Emer Dobson created a repeat pattern using the outline of non-recyclable packaging to highlight the problem of sustainability and the issue of hidden waste. She said: “I tried to think about how the last 60 years would have changed Mary Quant’s design process, her aesthetic and her ethos. The main thing I took from my research was that she wanted to design for everyone, was forward-thinking and quite a revolutionary.
“I looked at mass production and used the supermarket as my visual source, and the onslaught of advertising and bright colours. I used that as a starting place to critiquste mass production. I think Mary Quant probably would have had a similar take on things.
“Every time I had an idea I thought, ‘What would Mary do?’ I think she’d be annoyed by all of this. I think she would want sustainability.”
Lucy Carrie created a design inspired by youth and rebellion, with a particular focus on climate protests, while Jane Neave’s acid-bright design is inspired by Quant’s fashion statements which challenged gender stereotypes.
Jane Neave said: “I really considered how Mary Quant looked, how she wore suits even though it wasn’t really done then. She designed with women, and what women wanted, in mind. Then I thought about this in relation to designing my textile and dress.”
Pharmacist turned textile designer Humaira Khan leveraged her scientific knowledge to create her dyes from scratch. She said: “Measuring dyes in the lab was exactly like my work as a production pharmacist in which I handled all the raw materials in point zero one to thousands of litres. This experience formed an excellent basis for dyes I created for this project. Though it’s a complex process, I didn’t experience any difficulties.”
After the exhibition this year and graduation next, Humaira plans to establish her own textile design business. “I want to do something with innovation and sustainability,” she said. “I want to make items that avoid landfill, I want to make longer-lasting products.”
The new designers worked with fashion industry professionals, photographer Aleksandra Modrzjewska and stylist Kristen Neillie, also a textile graduate of DJCAD, who has gone on to work with Vogue, Dazed and Net-a-Porter.
The 21st Century Quant garments will be on display at V&A Dundee for the opening week of Mary Quant, outside the exhibition entrance.
The exhibition which focuses on the years between 1955 and 1975 will also feature the stories of women who made outfits from Mary Quant’s dressmaking patterns, gathered through V&A Dundee’s #SewQuant campaign, as well as a new film looking at contemporary female designers who, like Mary Quant, are forging their own way through today’s rapidly shifting fashion industry.
Dresses with printed textiles designed by Lucy Carrie, Emer Dobson, Sandra Junele, Humaira Khan and Jane Neave. Dress production by Min Atelier.
Cape with knitted textile designed by Sandra Junele, produced by JAG Knitwear, 2020
Mary Quant was curated by Jenny Lister and Stephanie Wood of the V&A and shown at V&A South Kensington from 6 April 2019 to 16 February 2020.
The Mary Quant exhibition at V&A Dundee opens Thursday 27 August to 17 January 2021. Mary Quant at V&A Dundee is supported by Barclays Private Bank.
1966 photograph: Mary Quant and her Ginger Group of girls in Market Street Manchester. February 1966. Photo by Howard Walker, Mirrorpix, Getty Images
21st Century Quant photographs: Photographed by Aleksandra Modrzjewska on location at V&A Dundee, before lockdown, styled by Kristen Neillie, Hair by Kay McIntyre, Make up by Jill Syme.
Designers: Lucy Carrie, Emer Dobson, Sandra Junele, Humaira Khan and Jane Neave.
Models: Catriona Merchant, Joy Ganesh, Jolene Guthrie, Lindsey Gordon, Maisie Farrer.