Designer Dame Mary Quant gets top honour in New Year Honours list

Designer Dame Mary Quant, who is widely credited with popularising the mini skirt, has been appointed a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the New Year Honours list.

The special award, granted to those who have made a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine or government, was founded on June 4 1917 by George V.

It is sometimes regarded as the junior honour to the Order of Merit and is made up of the sovereign, plus no more than 65 members, who may use the letters CH after their names.

New stamps unveiled
Dame Mary Quant, centre (PA)

Dame Mary joins an illustrious list of recipients including broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, actress Dame Judi Dench, former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and singer-songwriter Sir Elton John.

She was one of the most influential figures in the fashion scene of the 1960s and was appointed for services to fashion.

The 92-year-old fashion designer is credited with making fashion accessible to the masses with her sleek, streamlined and vibrant designs.

Born in south-east London on February 11 1930, Dame Mary is the daughter of two Welsh school teachers.

She gained a diploma in the 1950s in Art Education at Goldsmith’s College, where she met her husband Alexander Plunket Greene, who later helped establish her brand.

Dame Mary was taken on as an apprentice to a milliner before making her own clothes and in 1955 opened Bazaar, a boutique on the King’s Road in Chelsea.

Fashion – Mary Quant Autumn/Winter Collection – 1982
Model Tracey Hunt in an outfit from the Mary Quant Collection (PA)

She began experimenting with shorter hemlines in the late 1950s, culminating in the creation of one of the defining fashions of the following decade.

In 2014, Dame Mary, who named the skirt after her favourite make of car, recalled its “feeling of freedom and liberation”.

She said: “It was the girls on King’s Road who invented the mini. I was making clothes which would let you run and dance and we would make them the length the customer wanted.

“I wore them very short and the customers would say, ‘shorter, shorter’.”

Other styles from the 1960s include Peter Pan collars, as well as knitwear, swimwear and accessories and garments made using Butterick patterns.

Mary Quant recieves her OBE
Mini-skirt enthusiast Dame Mary, pictured after receiving an OBE in 1966 (PA)

Dame Mary also revolutionised the high street with hot pants, and trousers for women, as well as accessories, tights and make-up, while using the daisy brand design that became synonymous with her creations.

Her clothes were popularised by Jean Shrimpton, Pattie Boyd, Cilla Black and Twiggy.

In 2014, she was made a dame for services to British fashion in the Queen’s New Year list.

She said at the time: “I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded this terrific honour. It is extremely gratifying that my work in the fashion industry has been recognised and acknowledged in such a significant way.”

Dame Mary was made an OBE in 1966.

In 2020, an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum about Dame Mary’s fashion proved a hit with the public.

It was visited 400,000 times and was said at the time to be the third most visited fashion exhibition in the museum’s history after Christian Dior: Designer Of Dreams and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.

The exhibition showcased more than 120 garments, the majority of which had never been on display before, as well as accessories, cosmetics, sketches and photographs. It also toured in Australia, Scotland and New Zealand.

Quant screening
In 2021, actress and film producer Sadie Frost created a fashion documentary about Dame Mary (PA)

It revealed how Dame Mary “democratised fashion and empowered women” with her minimal and androgynous graphic look, which rejected the “debutante” styles of previous generations.

In 2021, actress and film producer Sadie Frost created a fashion documentary about Dam Mary called Quant.

Contributions to the biographical film came from prominent figures in the world of fashion like supermodel Kate Moss, designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, beauty entrepreneur and makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury, designer Jasper Conran and designer Dame Zandra Rhodes.

Frost said Dame Mary “changed the whole kind of female silhouette” and stopped women dressing like their mothers by creating “free and daring” designs.

In 2022, Taipei Fine Arts Museum in Taiwan also exhibited Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary.