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When Edi met Mary

Almost 20 years ago, broadcaster Edi Stark interviewed Mary Quant in London. From making her own clothes out of a bedspread as a child to starting a fashion revolution and beyond, Quant answers Edi’s revealing questions. We caught up with Edi recently and asked her about this fantastic conversation.

Listen to the interview below.

Edi, can you tell us a little bit about Stark Talk?

I’ve been making Stark Talk as an independent company since 2000, although it goes back even more than twenty years to when I worked as a freelance presenter. I like the play on my surname in that it’s a conversation without gimmick: just well researched questions with a bit of intuition.

You interviewed Mary Quant 18 years ago. What drew you to her?

My 21st birthday present was a sewing machine because I made all my own clothes (I wish I’d kept them). Quant was already a household name as the designer who had transformed the dowdy post-war dress code. She allowed fashion to be fun, frivolous and sexy and, most importantly, demonstrated that you didn’t have to be conventionally beautiful or posh to look great and turn heads. She was a childhood heroine of mine and the microphone gave me a very good excuse to meet her.

Black and white photo of Mary Quant and a man dancing together in a dance hall.
Mary Quant in a New York dance hall, 1960. (Image © John Cowan Archive)

Where did you interview Mary Quant?

We met at the BBC in London, in a tiny studio that was far from stylish! When I was younger, I’d interviewed Jean Muir who was an immaculate, intimidating figure. And, although there was also a surprising formality about Mary Quant, I didn’t want to rush home and change my clothes as I had under the stern eye of ‘Miss Muir’!

Have you been to see the Mary Quant exhibition at V&A Dundee?

Yes, and it was the first exhibition I’d visited since lockdown and the reason I’ve made my 2002 Quant interview into a podcast. It’s a stunning show!

The clothes could easily be worn now. And I loved Quant’s quote in the show: “Fashion is for now. If you’re still enjoying living and you’re still enjoying being a woman, one wants, surely, to wear the clothes of today. It has nothing to do with age”. As a woman in her sixties, I agree!

Black and white photo of Mary Quant and a few young women running towards the camera in a street, laughing.
Mary Quant and her Ginger Group of girls in Market Street, Manchester taken in February 1966. (Photo by Howard Walker.)

How would you define style?

I suspect it’s true that you either have it or you don’t. But it’s not about impressing other people, it’s about having the confidence to trust your own eye and wear whatever the hell you like.

Did you ever own anything designed by or branded Mary Quant?

I couldn’t have afforded the clothes, but I absolutely loved my set of Mary Quant giant eye crayons with the Daisy logo on the tin. My favourite shade was a sage green, worn down to a stub. And it would be perfect with my favourite outfit in the show!

A box of Mary Quant crayons with cool sixties design on the packaging including Quant's signature daisy.
Mary Quant eye crayons.

What question do you wish you had asked Mary Quant?

I’d have pushed her more on her current love life, but she was pretty adept at sidestepping anything she didn’t want to answer. Seeing the outfit she wore when she received an MBE from the Queen, I’d like to know about the thought process behind its design and choice.

Is there another fashion designer you’d still like to interview?

Christopher Kane is on the wish list!

Edi Stark is an award-winning broadcaster and one of Scotland’s most highly regarded journalists. In her podcast Stark Talk, join Edi for the interview series which often treads where others wouldn't dare.