V&A Dundee reopens with Mary Quant exhibition

Mary Quant exhibition V&A Dundee
Mary Quant exhibition V&A Dundee

The V&A Dundee has reopened with it first major fashion exhibition, Mary Quant, alongside an exciting new programme extending throughout the whole museum.

Mary Quant is the first international retrospective on the iconic British designer who disrupted the fashion establishment, captured the spirit of London in the 1960s, and started a fashion revolution that a whole generation wanted to take part in – and which still exists today.

Famous for popularising the miniskirt, Mary Quant made quality designer fashion affordable through licensing her youthful and playful brand, creating dressmaking patterns, make up and accessories that all showcased her iconic daisy logo. She encouraged a new age of feminism, inspiring young women to rebel against the traditional clothing worn by their mothers and grandmothers. Her shop Bazaar opened in 1955, the year after food rationing ended, and her colourful designs were a reaction against the austerity and drabness of post-war London.

Key objects featured in the exhibition include the pioneering ‘Wet Collection’ PVC rainwear, a jute miniskirt, and designs that playfully subverted menswear at a time when women were still banned from wearing trousers in formal settings such as restaurants.

The exhibition also features 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.

Heather Tilbury Phillips, former Director of Mary Quant Ltd said, “Mary gave so much power and strength to so many people. She wasn’t prepared to accept the world as it was given to her, the grey clothes and the conservative tastes inherited from the wartime generation before.

“Mary used her designs, from her fashions to accessories, hats, make up and homeware to change the the way people looked at the world and to let people create better lives for themselves. From flexible jersey dresses you could run and move and dance in, to home dressmaking patterns that opened up fashion to the masses, Mary totally revolutionised the world of fashion.”

Sophie McKinlay, Director of Programmes at V&A Dundee said, “Mary Quant is a pioneering designer who epitomises the energy and excitement of London in the 1960s. Through her confident, playful designs she helped change society for the better, giving women greater freedom to wear what they wanted and to choose clothes that looked and felt good.

“It is a remarkable achievement for a designer to be so loved and admired decades after beginning her career, and we are very excited indeed to be reopening V&A Dundee with this wonderful exhibition.”

In addition to Mary Quant, V&A Dundee has curated a new exhibition in response to the coronavirus pandemic, looking at how designers responded to the crisis. Now Accepting Contactless: Design in a Global Pandemic is on show in the Michelin Design Gallery, in spaces throughout the museum, and for the first time, outside the museum as well.

The exhibition includes a large-scale installation by Scottish fashion designer Christopher Kane on the facade of V&A Dundee, Be Open to the Joy You Deserve, spreading a message of hope to the people of Dundee, as well as a bespoke Quarantine Bread Baking Barbie created by Tonya Ruiz, Wash Your Lyrics posters in visitor bathrooms encourage handwashing to popular songs, and a chalk playscape around the museum created in collaboration with Abertay University.

Other design projects on show across the museum include Sewing Box for the Future, and films from the Schools Design Challenge. The Scottish Design Galleries have also reopened, including Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic Oak Room.

A number of measures are in place across the museum to ensure a safe, welcoming and inspiring experience for visitors and staff alike. As part of these measures, all visitors will be required to book free tickets in advance to enter the museum.

Mary Quant will run until 17 January 2021, with tickets on sale at vam.ac.uk/dundee. This will be followed by Night Fever: Designing Club Culture from 27 March to 5 September 2021.