Quant: A fine documentary about the woman who revolutionised high street fashion

Quant (E, 86 mins) Directed by Sadie Frost ****

No one is ever going to know for sure who came up with the idea of making women’s skirts shorter than they had ever been before. There are a few designers who could maybe claim the credit – and the illustrators of sci-fi paperback front covers probably got there before anyone.

But it was almost certainly Mary Quant who first coined and commercialised the term mini-skirt. Quant is one of the most influential, celebrated and universally admired clothing designers of all-time. She brought colour, simplicity of line and an emphasis on fun to women’s clothing from 1955 onwards. Quant’s influence – and brand – are still all around us today.

Fun fact, Quant was such a fan of the Mini car that she adopted the name for the skirt she is still synonymous with. Quant loves Minis so much, she designed the colour scheme and interior for a limited edition Mini 1000 in 1988. And now that I know that, I have never wanted to own any car so much in my life.

Mary Quant revolutionised how clothing – and then a brand, could be marketed, licensed and taken global, before almost anyone else in the industry had seen the potential.

Getty

Mary Quant revolutionised how clothing – and then a brand, could be marketed, licensed and taken global, before almost anyone else in the industry had seen the potential.

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Actor and first-time director Sadie Frost’s documentary on Quant is a light-treading walk through the life and work of this incontrovertibly world-changing woman. Quant shifted the look of high street forever, by making simple, colourful and perfectly cut clothing that young women actually wanted to wear. Quant’s designs were practical – far more so than the clothing that women of earlier generations had been strapped into – but they were also stylish, sexy and fun.

Working with husband Alexander Plunket Greene – who was a born seller with a great rolodex – and business manager Archie McNair, Quant revolutionised how clothing – and then a brand, could be marketed, licensed and taken global, before almost anyone else in the industry had seen the potential.

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Auckland Art Gallery/Supplied

Mary Quant is one of the most influential, celebrated and universally admired clothing designers of all-time.

Frost mostly gets out of the way of the story and lets a well-assembled collection of archival clips and contemporary interviews lay out the broad strokes in more-or-less chronological order. Quant – now 92 years old – doesn’t appear, but actor Camilla Rutherford does a fine job of bringing to life her words from a few interviews.

Of the talking heads, Dave Davies of The Kinks is pretty superfluous, but the rarely-sighted Vivienne Westwood – surely the inheritor of Quant’s mantle – is as crucial and excoriating as ever. Kate Moss and co are all present, knowledgeable and reliably genuflectory.

Quant is a fine film of an absolutely amazing life. Very recommended, whether you think you give a hoot about clothing or not.

Quant is now screening in select cinemas.

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