Mary Quant pushed boundaries and shook up the fashion industry in the 1960s. Design students studying at University of Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design were given a brief to explore Mary Quant’s legacy as a fashion designer. They were asked to create new textiles inspired by Quant’s sixties’ rebellion, but that also responded to big issues facing today’s fashion world.
Five of the students’ designs were selected: Lucy Carrie, Emer Dobson, Sandra Junele, Humaira Khan and Jane Neave. Four of the textiles were transformed into dresses made to the exact specification of an original Mary Quant Butterick dressmaking pattern. The knitted cape designed by Sandra Junele was inspired by Quant’s Alligator cape. Detailed research and experimentation led them to explore urgent themes such as climate change, consumerism and racism.
The new designers worked with fashion industry professionals: photographer Aleksandra Modrzjewska, fashion stylist Kristen Neillie, hair stylist Kay McIntyre and make-up artist Jill Syme. Together they created new images in and around our museum inspired by an iconic 1966 image of Mary Quant and models. This is the first time the museum has been used for a fashion shoot.
Jane Neave was really motivated to focus on xenophobia when creating her design. “Having researched Quant, I think this is a cause she would support because she was very concerned about discrimination and human rights.
“For my source material I used urban landscapes such as graffiti and decaying brick walls, as well as flags, to symbolise the countries most affected. I worked with newspaper headlines and symbols to create a textured look, then combined these with bright, bold colours which on first glance creates a happy, sunny look but on looking more closely the design reveals a darker and more meaningful message.”
Lucy Carrie chose youth and rebellion as her theme, looking at the climate change crisis and protest marches held by young protesters.
“I decided to focus on coastal erosion as my main body of visual primary research. I visited Crail Beach in Fife taking photos and drawings. I took my colour inspiration from the bold and vibrant colours of the 1960s and exaggerated the marks and textures using bright colours. I created this bold and flamboyant design as I wanted to convey the rebellious acts of young Climate Change protestors and the effects of climate change on our planet.”
“Waste is the thing which inspires me,” said Sandra Junele. “There is so much in the world, and it's getting worse and worse.
After finishing her studies in Latvia, Sandra wanted a change and decided to come to Scotland. Here, she started working for a housing company that would deal with items and belongings left behind by previous owners or tenants. Shocked by the piles of abandoned items that would have to be sent to landfill, she started thinking more about how we discard items in society.
“People are constantly buying new things. Does that cycle ever end? How do we stop it? I think we need to make good quality things with good material that will last.
“An umbrella, for example, if you bought one cheaply made for £1, you wouldn’t care if you lost it, or binning or replacing it. But if you bought a good quality one for £30, it will last for a long time and you would take more care of it, love it. This is what I aspire to in my work.”
Pharmacist turned textile designer Humaira Khan leveraged her scientific knowledge to create her dyes from scratch. “Measuring dyes in the lab was exactly like my work as a production pharmacist. I handled all the raw materials in point zero one to thousands of litres. This experience formed an excellent basis for dyes I created for this project. Though it’s a complex process, I didn’t experience any difficulties.”
After the exhibition this year and graduation next, Humaira plans to establish her own textile design business. “I want to do something with innovation and sustainability,” she said. “I want to make items that avoid landfill, I want to make longer-lasting products.”
Emer Dobson created a repeat pattern using the outline of non-recyclable packaging to highlight the problem of sustainability and the issue of hidden waste. “I tried to think about how the last 60 years would have changed Mary Quant’s design process, her aesthetic and her ethos. The main thing I took from my research was that she wanted to design for everyone, was forward-thinking and quite a revolutionary.
“I looked at mass production and used the supermarket as my visual source, and the onslaught of advertising and bright colours. I used that as a starting place to critique mass production. I think Mary Quant probably would have had a similar take on things.
“Every time I had an idea I thought, ‘What would Mary do?’ I think she’d be annoyed by all of this. I think she would want sustainability.”
The garments will be on display at the museum immediately outside the Mary Quant exhibition entrance for a week from 27 August.
Tara Wainwright is the Joint Acting Director, Audiences & Media at V&A Dundee.
Credits: dresses with printed textiles designed by Emer Dobson, Humaira Khan, Jane Neave, Lucy Carrie, 2020. Dress production by Min Atelier. Cape with knitted textile designed by Sandra Junele, produced by JAG Knitwear, 2020.