The whole point of fashion is to make fashionable clothes available to everyone.
Fashion is a tool to compete in life outside the home.
Introduction – Quant and ‘the Chelsea Set’
Barbara Mary Quant was born 11 February 1930 in Blackheath, London, and grew up there along with her younger brother Tony. Her parents were both Welsh and had distinguished careers as teachers, however they refused to let her study fashion, so Quant graduated from an illustration course at Goldsmiths. There she met aristocrat Alexander Plunket Greene, whom she married in 1957. Mary obtained a diploma in art education, and began an apprenticeship at a high-end milliner, Erik of Brook Street.
In 1955, Plunket Greene purchased Markham House on the King's Road in Chelsea, London, an area frequented by the 'Chelsea Set' comprising artists, film directors and socialites. Quant, Plunket Greene and their friend, Archie McNair, opened a basement restaurant Alexander's. McNair already owned a fashionable coffee shop called, somewhat exotically, The Fantasie.
They also opened a boutique Bazaar on the ground floor. Quant concentrated on design and fashion, Plunket Greene had entrepreneurial and marketing skills, and lawyer McNair, who was also a keen photographer, brought legal and business sense to the brand. In 1957 they opened the second Bazaar designed by Terence Conran, right opposite Harrods. Self-taught and taking cutting and other evening classes Mary moved to make her own designs, affordable for everyday working women and in new styles and fabrics. Although she became famous for the Mini Skirt, Hotpants and simple clean lines, few people are aware how influenced Quant was by sport in her designs.
Quant and Sportswear
One of the ways that Quant was influenced by sportswear was her research into Victorian clothing, and the way that she incorporated nineteenth century references into contemporary fashion. In 1961, for instance, she launched a knickerbocker set, modelled by Melanie Hampshire, that referenced women’s nineteenth century bathing-wear. This was somewhat frivolous and fun compared with the matching separates that defined Quant’s style, to be worn for work, or recreation, and so marks an obvious point of departure into leisurewear. The Norfolk jacket, a Victorian sportsjacket, also influenced her structured and boxy style of suit.
This developed across the brand, with its distinctive dairy symbol, as Quant went on to design underwear, outerwear, shoes and accessories, homewear and even toys and clothing for toys. One of the really clever elements of the brand, as it moved into global markets in the 1960s, was the the consumer could buy the whole Quant look for personal wear and the home. Extending into the US and then globally, it was estimated that seven million women had at least one of her products in their wardrobe by 1970, and thousands wore her 'Daisy'-badged cosmetics range, or the cheaper diffusion brand The Ginger Group.
1966 The OBE Dress
When Quant was awarded an OBE on 15 November 1966, the year that England won the world cup on home soil, she chose to design her own dress to wear to the Palace, and in a way that played with protocol, she chose a dress made out of cream wool jersey fabric, a textile popularized by sport. The dress lacked the formal structure of haute couture and was deliberately youthful in its style, with a miniskirt length. The dress made a feature out of functional modernistic details, like trademark circular zip-pulls, and contrast stitching. Topped with a bonded jersey beret and court shoes, this simple outfit became a signature style. Cleverly, even if young women could not afford the Quant head-to-toe look, or could not meet the expense of visiting London, they could buy Buttericks patterns and try to make their own clothes in the Quant style at home.
The Football Dress
Said to be influenced less by the shock of the new and more by the shock of the knee, Quant specifically referenced the popularity of England’s 1966 victory and football more generally with The Football Dress. Worn with characteristic matching tights, this red jersey dress with cream trimming was perhaps to be worn after the match, rather than on the terraces while supporting. Modelled as an androgynous style, with a pixie style haircut, this was one of many Quant designs to incorporate stripes, contrasts and features taken from sportswear. For instance the neck trim, with three contrasting buttons looked like some football shirts of the era. The comfortable silhouette encouraged freedom of movement. This extended to tracksuits to be worn for leisure, and not intended for sport at all.
The whole point of Quant’s designs were that they encouraged young women not to dress like their mothers, but to express themselves. Although the colours and cut can look a little dated today, this is a very contemporary message. There were formal wear garments and more experimental pieces but the mix and match separates dominated the exhibition. This is not on such a grand scale as the Dior exhibition reviewed earlier, but perhaps that is appropriate as the topic is how Quant changed every day dressing for young people. In 1990 she was awarded the prestigious Hall of Fame Award by the British Fashion Council. Awarded a DBE in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to British fashion, Dame Mary Quant has also been immortalized by, amongst others, artist Sir Peter Blake, to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork, the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, to celebrate British cultural figures. Well worth a trip, the exhibition has particularly features about modernity, youth, empowerment and how fashion labels became larger international brands.
Way back in December 2016, soon after jjheritage had been launched as a company, Jean was invited to a workshop at the National Football Museum, (NFM) in Manchester concerning Football’s Public Monuments. This was part of a four year project ‘The Art of Collecting Football’ led by academic input from Professor Mike O’Mahony of Bristol University and supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £199,900. The project sought to develop the NFM art collection through the acquisition of priority works that have been 1. inspired by or 2. depicting football and its wider cultural influence.
This chimed with jjheritage’s interest in the World Cup as a cultural event and, more specifically, the history of world cup posters, mascots and trademarks. Jean has now published a chapter, with a specific on the 1966 World Cup in England and how this changed the marketing strategy of future World Cup tournaments, in an edited collection led by Daniel Haxall called Picturing the Beautiful Game (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).
Much of the research for that chapter took place at the world-class stores of the National Football Museum in Preston and in the Zurich archives of FIFA. But with the launch of a new exhibition, Football is Art, in 2019 we can now see the culmination of this project, and Jean attended the preview event on 4 April 2019. The preview suggests that this will be incredibly popular with the National Football Museum’s public and could reach out to people who do not necessarily feel themselves to be football fans and prefer art galleries.
The FA and Arts Council Football and Fine Art competition of 1953
L.S. Lowry's now-iconic Going To The Match won the inaugural Football And Fine Arts competition, held jointly by The FA and the newly-formed Arts Council in 1953. This was purchased in 1999 by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) for £1.9 million, after it was reportedly declined by David Beckham because Victoria expressed her distate at the painting.
At the time the price was a record for a Lowry, and the highest paid for a British artist, according to Sotheby’s auction house. This was exhibited to mark the PFA’s centenary in 2008 at Manchester Art Gallery but has otherwise been on display at The Lowry along with other PFA purchases.
So although the National Football Museum exhibition cannot display the winner, the FA and Arts Council collaboration was an unprecedented focal moment in seeking to encourage new fine art about football, and many other contemporary artists who sent in work in 1953 are represented.
Existing Works and New Acquisitions
The Football is Art exhibition was a mix of new acquisitions and existing works owned by the NFM, ranging from Aardman animation house, to Banksy, and a £40,000 sculpture Footballeur by Pablo Picasso, who was famously a Barcelona fan in the 1960s before moving to Paris. Equally proud of his heritage, Bradford-born David Hockney, featured football in many of his paintings and is also represented. L.S. Lowry, Joan Miró, Paul Nash also feature, as do posters, sculpture, fashion, multi media collages and Batik work. Contemporary artists and illustrators feature strongly in the exhibition including Michael J. Browne, Stanley Chow, Jill Iliffe and Marcus Marritt. Gary Armer, who has previously been an artist in residence at the museum, was represented by Not a Penny More featuring in the ‘Despair’ section, a portrait of a dejected Blackpool FC supporter under the Oyston family regime.
Perhaps the finest work on display is a recent acquisition, Mid-week practice at Stamford Bridge by Lawrence Toynbee, originally submitted as part of the Football and the Fine Arts exhibition in 1953, where it won one of the main prizes alongside Lowry’s Going to the Match. Another standout piece of the exhibition was Jean Cocteau’s disarmingly simple line drawing Football Annonciation, 1923.
The National Football Museum already owned influential British surrealist Ithell Colquhoun's The Game Of The Year, created in 1953. The title probably refers to the Blackpool vs Bolton Wanderers FA Cup Final, but there is no record of the painting being entered into the FA art competition.
Gerald A. Cains' Saturday Taxpayers was entered into the 1953 competition. The oil on canvas painting of crowds relaxedly filling a stand was entered just before the competitions closed, after the picture apparently came to the artist in a dream about his local team Portsmouth. He was the youngest artist to enter, aged just 22.
The title refers to the fact that Entertainment Tax had first been levied on professional football since 1916 as a wartime measure and were still in place, although protests had taken place. Hence, perhaps, the tone of reflective anticipation.
And the art on display at the NFM is not limited to the exhibition. Pieces on display in the main galleries include leading contemporary artists, including Michael J. Browne known for The Art of the Game 1997 and other subsequent large scale and high profile projects, including The Transfiguration of George Best 2008.
The Art of the Game is one of jjheritage’s favourite painting in the wealth of treasures available at The National Football Museum.
Football-related public art
The December 2016 workshop on public monuments set their relatively recent rise as a widespread phenomenon in this historical context, not least thanks to the groundbreaking work of Chris Stride, Ffion Thomas, and John Wilson and their comprehensive database From Pitch to Plinth: Sporting Statues Project (for more information on the project see www.offbeat.group.shef.ac.uk/statues). As public confidence in politicians and other figures historically commemorated by public statuary, sports stars have more recently been commemorated due to public fundraising, and civic projects. These works are, by their very nature, outside of the walls of institutions such as the National Football Museum, and in the public domain at specific sites of memorialization. So that workshop could lead to more of a focus on sporting statuary, and the process of making such art.
Football as an inherently visual sport
Since football is an inherently visual medium, the opportunities for amplifying the project and the exhibition are almost infinitely variable. Just as Jean’s own work on football posters is now developing to look at regional representations and to the unsuccessful World Cup posters and competitions, the theme of football and art is likely to grow as a specialism across a number of sectors.
Looking to the future, Jean had a go at the @tiltbrush Virtual Reality in the Score Gallery, and enjoyed the different features of the digital creation with its many options, including DISCO which sends pulses of light along the lines drawn by the operator. Great fun! #FootballisArt
Posts written by Jean or Joanna.