Mary Quant was born February 11, 1934 in London, England to Welsh teachers. Her childhood was disrupted and colored by World War II-for the better, she later recalled in her 1966 autobiography Quant by Quant. “Almost my first clear memory is the day we were evacuated from Blackheath to a village in Kent”, she wrote. That village, on the east coast of England, placed the family directly beneath the path of enemy planes flying over the coast on their way to bomb London. “Because we had no understanding of the grim tragedies of war”, she remembered, “this was tremendous fun”. She would run with her brother, Tony, and friends to investigate and ransack crashed planes, taking everything they could carry. “Our prize possession was some poor pilot’s thumb which had been shot off and which we carefully preserved in vinegar in an airtight bottle”, she gleefully noted.
After completing her primary education in 1951, Quant’s parents encouraged her to begin pursuing a career. “It was made absolutely clear to both of us from the start that we would have to earn our own livings”, she wrote. “My parents never even considered the possibility that marriage might be a way out for girls. I was made terribly aware that it was entirely my own responsibility to make a success of my life”. With her parents’ qualified permission, Quant enrolled at Goldsmiths’ College of Art in London. Almost immediately she met Alexander Plunket Greene, who became her business partner and, later, husband. Her classmates, including Greene, were an education unto themselves, she wrote. “It was only when I went to Goldsmiths’ that, for the first time in my life, I realized that there are people who give their lives to the pursuit of pleasure and indulgence of every kind in preference to work”, Quant marveled. “At first it was a shock even to me; to my parents, such a thing was incomprehensible”. Quant spent several years reveling in the atmosphere of Goldsmiths’
but left after failing to earn her Art Teachers’ Diploma. She took a job working for a Danish milliner, earning such a tiny salary she ate only occasionally.
¿Meanwhile, Greene and Quant had paired up with a friend named Archie McNair. When Greene inherited 5,000 pounds on his 21st birthday, the three decided to go into business together. They rented Markham House, a three-story building on King’s Road in London’s artist district, Chelsea. In Markham House, they opened a boutique on the first floor and a restaurant in the basement. They called the boutique Bazaar. Its owners knew little about the business beyond Quant’s fashion philosophy: “I can’t bear over-accessorization … a white hat worn with white gloves, white shoes and a white umbrella”, she declared in Quant by Quant. “Rules are invented for lazy people who don’t want to think for themselves”. True to her philosophy, Quant searched for the clothes she herself wanted to wear, selling miniskirts, funky dresses, bright tights and bras called Booby Traps to young people. The shop capitalized on the buying power of baby boomers, those born during the sharp increase in
birthrate following the end of World War II, who were beginning to grow into teenagers.