While runway designers like Courrèges may have pioneered the mod look, Mary Quant gave the style mass appeal. Her designs defined a generation of ‘60s women that she herself was a part of — she was only 21 when she opened up her first store, Bazaar, on Kings Road in London in 1955. Credited with popularizing the miniskirt — which she named after her favorite car, the Mini — Quant designed short frocks and skirts in bright colors and simple shapes, with buttons and white collars that could be bought separately. Even at their initial six inches above the knee, her short hemlines made waves. Rather than cause controversy, Quant was trying to be practical: She told reporters that she wanted women who wore her designs to be able to run to catch the bus.
As her style, called the Chelsea Look, became more popular on the London scene, Quant started dressing a pack of British “It” girls, including, notably, Twiggy. John Lennon even wore one of her 15-guinea hats. With a trendy bowl cut by Vidal Sassoon, Quant became a fashion icon in her own right. She opened up a second store in 1964, launched a lower-priced line called the Ginger Group, and received an OBE from the Queen for her contributions to the fashion industry in 1966. As the ‘60s went on, she moved from the miniskirt to hot pants, and in the next decade branched out to homewares, cosmetics, and even the interior of a limited-edition Mini. Though Quant, now 81, probably wouldn’t wear her go-go hemlines today — “A woman is as young as her knees” was one of her sayings — she’s still got “It”: As part of the Queen’s New Year’s Honours in December, she was officially named a Dame.