Many a fan had ‘been feeling it since 1966’ when I visited the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A Museum earlier this year. Truly wondrous was how the fashions Quant created could still look so fresh and modern some 50 years on.
Quant was a game changer for women’s fashion; innovatively expressing feminism through new clothing products that were easy to move in, dance in, expressive and joyful to wear – mini-dresses, mini-skirts, hot pants, all deliberately designed with a tomboyish take that would set the look for London’s swinging sixties.
Her iconic designs perfectly suited the ‘rebel just for kicks’ youth culture for that decade and beyond, shedding the conservative and formal fashion culture from the generation before, and replacing it with bright colours, bold patterns and comfortable cuts.
I’d gone to the exhibition expecting to be bowled over by the ‘60s fashion and the ‘60s fashionistas modelling the clothes, and I was, in much the same way as today’s celebrity Instagram influencers impress generation X/Y/Z (whatever the right letter is!).
What I hadn’t appreciated was the business empire she’d created on top of the clothes, with multiple lines of related accessories including tights, shoes, ankle boots, handbags and makeup, as well as an extensive line of fashion dolls with their own accessories to match the real-life dresses.
Her business acumen was extraordinary; from her famous partnership with Vidal Sassoon, who created avant-garde geometric haircuts to complement Quant’s clothes, to her ability to generate widespread publicity and media coverage for each collection, which only served to fuel the demand for her clothes even more, in time extending her reach globally in a pre-digital age. Not only that, but her aim was for her creations to be accessibly priced too, pioneering the mass production of fashionable clothes that we’re accustomed to today.
Coming out of leftfield
Quant regularly experimented with different fabric types to create groundbreaking new products such as jersey dresses and PVC raincoats. Continually innovating, and being naturally curious and restless in looking for new ideas and improvements, is textbook marketing product management. Another necessity is in not just getting under the skin of your product but in kicking it from every angle and seeing if it still works.
Behind the scenes of launching any new product lies research, focus groups, competitor analysis, development, positioning, testing, more testing, user groups and FAQs in the lead up to a launch to market. Post-launch, the longer term work of sales incentives, customer feedback, and market penetration plans begins.
Managing a product portfolio should be a virtuous customer journey cycle of: discovery, purchase, use, and create a habit of coming back for more. Exactly as Quant did – ‘might be over now but I feel it still’.
Catch the Mary Quant exhibition at London’s V&A Museum until February 2020:
Song credit: Portugal.The Man. Watch the music video here.
Images copyright: Becky Jones.