Stepping back in time to Swinging London: A visit to the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A
Mario Abou Hammad, PhD Film student at London College of Communication, recently led a Post-Grad Community funded visit to the Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Here is Mario's report from the visit:
It couldn’t have been more London than this. A day of glorious grey and downpour dampened the concrete pavements of South Kensington. Brollies floated past that iconic Gothic structure of 19th century Darwinian exhibits; the occasional red of a double decker passing along the Cromwell Road.
Approaching the asphalt crossing, a burst of magenta-orange greeted my path. Suddenly I imagined the red busses turning into route-masters circa 1965. Today was all about the 1960s after all, and everything that had made the British high street “swinging”.
We had planned to meet on the steps just outside the V&A’s vestibule, but the showers moved us into the interior hall, just a few meters away from the revolving doors. Foot-stepping our way through the echoing corridor of white marble, we tapped past statues that arabesqued, black-clad and stick-like, like Audrey Hepburn’s beatnik performance in Funny Face.
Entering the time-machine’s threshold, we were greeted by a display of Mary Quant’s King’s Road boutique: Bazaar. We had arrived at the beginning. Garments demonstrating couture from the late 1950s soon gave way to Quant’s revolutionary vision for the approaching decade. Sardines (the name of a type of dress) in bright orange and claret, finished with black and white stripes running across the top and botton. They looked like long warm jumpers. How very Mod! PVC “wet looks” in terracotta, green, blue, white or red; mini pinafores and turtle necks. I recalled images and sounds from the Beatles’ 1964 Hard Day’s Night movie.
On display too, behind glass, were photo-editorials from issues of Vogue, dated October 1963. Film reels projecting photo-shoots and models on runways, in black and white, featured that quintessential Swinging London Hammond organ sound, reminiscent of Antonioni’s 1966 David Bailey-inspired Blowup. Interview reels with Quant in her studio played out on loop.
We went for pancakes afterwards. But what did the cats have to say?
Today’s exhibition is relevant to society…I enjoyed the event since it displayed various clothes and fashion styles from Mary Quant. I also liked the location. Having it in the V&A was an ideal place! Overall, it was a really good experience - Noura. MA Documentary Film. LCC.
The outing was inspiring, sexy and educational. I’ve become even more intrigued by Quant’s works and ‘60s aesthetics than I already was! The company too was top-notch. - Pinky. MA Dramatic Writing. CSM.
I would say the whole exhibition was very contemporary. I can see where the references of the clothes we wear came from. Very impressed with the displays and installations. Going to a café was really good as well, after the exhibition. - Jeongmin. Menswear. LCF.
It was good to share opinions and views after going through the exhibit. Mary Quant was a personality to observe. She managed to do so much in her life! - Sushma. MA Narrative Environments. CSM.
It was really enjoyable to share an appreciation of 1960s fashion and design with other people also interested in the art, culture and aesthetics of the decade. Relaxing and talking in the café afterwards was a nice way to mix a bit with other Postgrads and make some new friends. - Mario. PhD Film. LCC.
Before today, I had never really heard of Mary Quant and was not familiar with her work or her time. I have learned more about 60s fashion in a day than I have ever before in my lifetime. Her creativity and fashion have shaped the world and established London as a center of fashion, culture and innovation. Mary Quant‘s approach to design and business are even more relevant today in the time of fashion democratisation and women empowerment. I am in awe of her legacy and deeply grateful for being able to see her work. This exhibition is a must-see for everyone coming to London! - Sisi. MSc International Fashion Management. LCF.
Art, crepes and pleasant company is a lovely combination to spend a rainy afternoon in London. For me, going to see Mary Quant's exhibition at the V&A, opened up a whole new world since I didn't really know her, her work or her brand; I was fascinated by her ingenious and outrageous creations and her intuition for business which shaped new commercial and cultural trends in the fashion industry and beyond. It's always exciting to come across such an iconic character. A must-see! - Pedro. MA Dramatic Writing. CSM