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Inside the new book "Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution / Terence Conran - Mary Quant"

By Barbara Russ

23 Apr 2019

The book "Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution / Terence Conran - Mary Quant" accompanies an exhibition by the same topic at the London Fashion and Textile Museum. Upheavals of the era took place at the time, but in contrast to the reactionary political course of the British today, the atmosphere was forward-looking and optimistic.

The members of the Chelsea Set, in particular, a group of radical young architects, designers, photographers and artists, roused the rigid post-war years. The established order was the declared enemy of this group, which included Mary Quant and Terence Conran.

"Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution" looks at the period from 1952 to 1977 and features fashion, textiles, furniture, lamps, housewares, ceramics and paper articles in an exhibition that captures not only the style but also the socioeconomic importance of this transformative time period. Among the most important works are rare and early examples of Conran and Quant's designs, as well as of the avant-garde artists, designers, and intellectuals who worked with them.

The accompanying book pays homage to the Chelsea Set, a progressive clique dedicated to Bohemian lifestyle that was to change the course of the contemporary design of the 1960s. In addition to Quant's husband Plunket Greene and Conran's wife Shirley Conran, the group also included designers Bernard and Laura Ashley, sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and artist and photographer Nigel Henderson. The book tells the story of an era through a mix of biography, fashion photography and vintage advertising. It transports the reader back to London at the height of the Swinging Sixties and shows Quant and Conran as friends, colleagues and allies at the helm of this informal, influential group that steered the rudder of British style during the pop era.

Terence Conran, full name Sir Terence Orby Conran, was born in Surrey in 1931. The English designer, restaurateur and businessman made it his mission to make stylish household goods and home decor accessible to a broader market starting in the 1960s. First, he studied at Central Saint Martins College, including the subject of textiles. In addition to his work at an architectural office, he designed furniture that he sold in his shop called Habitat. He also designed fashion designer Mary Quant’s first store.

Along with John Bates and André Courrèges, Mary Quant is considered the inventor of the miniskirt. The British designer, born in 1934, wanted to become an art teacher, but studied fashion instead. She opened the boutique Bazaar em> in London's Chelsea district. The miniskirt made her famous, but also PVC clothes are typical for her. Her miniskirt gained world fame especially on the long, slender legs of model Twiggy, through which the look became the icon of a whole decade.

Photos: (1) Cover of the book „Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution / Terence Conran - Mary Quant“ (2) and (3) inside pages of the book Conran/Quant: Swinging London: A Lifestyle Revolution. Courtesy of ACC Art Books.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited DE. Translated by Simone Preuss.