V&A Dundee reopens with its first major fashion exhibition, Mary Quant, today (Thursday 27 August) and an exciting new programme extending throughout the whole museum.
Mary Quant is the first international retrospective on the iconic British designer who disrupted the fashion establishment, captured the spirit of London in the 1960s, and started a fashion revolution that a whole generation wanted to take part in – and still continues today.
The exhibition will run until 17 January 2021, with tickets on sale now at www.vam.ac.uk/dundee. This will be followed by Night Fever: Designing Club Culture from 27 March to 5 September 2021.
Mary Quant designed clothes that made people feel good. She made quality designer fashion affordable through licensing her youthful and playful brand, creating dressmaking patterns, make-up and accessories that all showcased her iconic daisy logo.
Mary Quant encouraged a new age of feminism, inspiring young women to rebel against the traditional clothing worn by their mothers and grandmothers. Her shop Bazaar opened in 1955, the year after World War Two food rationing ended, and her colourful designs were a reaction against the austerity and drabness of post-war London.
Mary Quant is famous for popularising the miniskirt, but her designs offered many different versions of femininity and challenged the conventional gender stereotypes of post-war Britain.
Key objects featured within the exhibition include the pioneering ‘Wet Collection’ PVC rainwear, a jute miniskirt, and designs that playfully subverted menswear at a time when women were still banned from wearing trousers in formal settings such as restaurants.
The exhibition in Dundee also features the stories of women who made outfits from Mary Quant’s dressmaking patterns, gathered through V&A Dundee’s #SewQuant campaign, as well as a new film looking at contemporary female designers who, like Mary Quant, are forging their own way through today’s rapidly shifting fashion industry.
Heather Tilbury Phillips, former Director of Mary Quant Ltd, said: “Mary gave so much power and strength to so many people. She wasn’t prepared to accept the world as it was given to her, the grey clothes and conservative tastes inherited from the wartime generation before.
“Mary used her designs, from her fashions to accessories, hats, make-up and homeware, to change the way people looked at the world and to let people create better lives for themselves. From flexible jersey dresses you could run and move and dance in, to home dressmaking patterns that opened up fashion to the masses, Mary totally revolutionised the world of fashion.
“Mary is a true legend of fashion and I am delighted to be in Dundee to see this brilliant exhibition open.”
Sophie McKinlay, Director of Programme at V&A Dundee, said: “Mary Quant is a pioneering designer who epitomises the energy and excitement of London in the 1960s. Through her confident, playful designs she helped change society for the better, giving women greater freedom to wear what they wanted and to choose clothes that looked and felt good.
“It is a remarkable achievement for a designer to be so loved and admired decades after beginning her career, and we are very excited indeed to be reopening V&A Dundee with this wonderful exhibition.”
To mark the reopening Dundee community groups were welcomed to the museum for a special preview day on Wednesday 26 August, thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery who also support the communities programme at V&A Dundee.
Stephanie Kerr, Programmes Advisor at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “We are thrilled to see V&A Dundee reopening and celebrating the power of design to improve people’s lives, from the joy of Mary Quant’s fashion to projects exploring how people can use design to improve their own lives.
“Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported V&A Dundee for many years and it’s great that Dundee communities were able to get the first look back inside Scotland’s design museum.”
Scotland’s first design museum has also curated a new exhibition in response to the coronavirus pandemic, looking at how designers responded to the crisis. Now Accepting Contactless: Design in a Global Pandemic is on show in the Michelin Design Gallery, in spaces throughout the museum and, for the first time, outside the museum.
The exhibition includes a large-scale installation by Scottish fashion designer Christopher Kane on the façade of V&A Dundee, Be open to the Joy you deserve, spreading a message of hope to the people of Dundee, as well as a bespoke Quarantine Bread Baking Barbie created by Tonya Ruiz, Wash Your Lyrics posters in visitor bathrooms encouraging handwashing to popular songs, and a chalk playscape around the museum created in collaboration with Abertay University.
Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble have now begun work in V&A Dundee on Making Room, a project with Dundee Central Library, local school pupils and the museum’s Young People’s Collective.
Making Room is taking inspiration from historic buildings in Dundee to produce a new interior room that will be built in V&A Dundee before being moved to Dundee Central Library, where it will function as an area for digital learning and making for the city.
Other design projects are on show across the museum, including Sewing Box for the Future and films from the Schools Design Challenge, and the Scottish Design Galleries have also reopened including Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic Oak Room.
A number of measures are in place across the museum to ensure a safe, welcoming and inspiring experience for visitors and staff alike. All visitors now need to book free tickets to enter the museum, as part of the essential steps to keep visitors safe and to ensure physical distancing. Those free tickets can also be booked at www.vam.ac.uk/dundee
Mary Quant at V&A Dundee is supported by Barclays Private Bank. Making Room and the Schools Design Challenge are both supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Mary Quant was curated by Jenny Lister and Stephanie Wood of the V&A and shown at V&A South Kensington from 6 April 2019 to 16 February 2020.