Autobiography, By Mary Quant
Nice clothes, but what's underneath?
Don't believe the old saw "If you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there".
Mary Quant remembers everything and she was the Sixties, having single-handedly created the look – the miniskirts, the hotpants, the PVC macs, the skinny-ribbed sweaters – that defined Swinging London. If the fashion designer has grown tired of raking over 50-year-old glories, she shows no sign of it in her memoir, which breathlessly reinforces her own legend and plants her at the epicentre of all that was stylish and cool.
From the moment she and her husband Alexander Plunket Greene (known as APG) open the doors of their King's Road boutique in 1955, their lives are a giddy merry-go-round of parties, press launches, photo shoots and dinners. As the Quant empire grows there are business meetings in New York and Tokyo, weekends in St Tropez, and ludicrous publicity stunts including one at an awards ceremony in Rome that involves Quant in a helicopter drop at the Spanish Steps.
She is an incorrigible name-dropper. Elizabeth David comes to dinner (they make her sausage and mash), Brigitte Bardot drops by APG's restaurant, and, oh look, there's Rudolph Nureyev, copping a strop because one of Quant's business associates doesn't recognise him.
You sense that Quant could fill several more volumes with stories like these. But amusing as they are, they don't reveal much about her interior life. She offers only the barest glimpse into her early existence, sprinting through her childhood in six pages and plotting her passage from penniless art student to the toast of the town in just a couple of chapters. There's a moment of candour when she reveals how APG was repeatedly unfaithful – "Women would telephone me and say, 'Can Alexander come out to play?'" – and another when she fleetingly discusses the illness that led to his death. And that's pretty much that.
She is more fluent when it comes to business, making sharp observations about the factors that contributed to her success, from the catchiness of her name to the canniness of also making the tights to be worn under her miniskirts. Nevertheless, you get little sense of what drives her.
Perhaps it's to be expected that a designer so absorbed in image is unaccustomed to scratching beneath the surface. Quant's autobiography is never dull, but if you want a comprehensive picture of its author, you won't find it here.
Broadcaster unveils Christmas scheduleTV
Review: Posh journalists just can't get enough of each otherTV
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?
- 4 Halle Berry takes ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry to court for allegedly trying to make daughter look less African-American
- 5 Isis propaganda image showing 'abuse of Muslim woman by soldiers' is actually taken from Hungarian porn film
Black Mirror Christmas special: Jon Hamm episode will see people 'blocked' in real life
True Detective series 2: Rachel McAdams cast in female lead as 'no-nonsense' detective
Zoella: YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg's debut novel expected to become overnight bestseller
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Posh People: Inside Tatler, BBC2 - TV review: Fundamentally not just about posh people
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict