16th May 2019
To mark the celebration of Mary Quant at The V&A which opened earlier this year we speak to our current Chairman’s mother Peta Martin about the arrival of Mary Quant and the mini skirt to the King’s Road in 1955.
At the time Martin’s was an electrical business with two shops in the King’s Road, one selling television’s and radio’s and the other being a record shop.
My husband was in much demand as the electrical business was in very early stages. You must remember that the war had only just ended and the King’s Road like most of the country was very run down. The nearby Lots Road power station was a huge target during the war as it was the main power supply for the London Underground. At the time Chelsea was the centre of the art world with many artists visiting the Chelsea Pottery to use their kiln. I do remember the drabness of shops, not only in the Kings Road but everywhere. Most clothing shops at that time were smart ladies outfitters to dress the more mature and richer persona.
Mary Quant and her husband (Alexander Plunket Green) set the Kings Road alight with their new shop which stood above the pavement with a floor to ceiling window. I well remember her first mannequin…although I cannot truly remember the colours but they were vibrant and heady and the model was almost in dancing mode! Nothing like that had ever been seen before, and in stark contrast to the standard window display of the time which was sedate and elderly! It was a talking point in minutes, and as difficult as it may be to imagine now, caused amazement to all and sundry. Quant and Plunket Green also had a restaurant underneath their shop on the corner of Markham Square and the King’s Road which made the bottom of Markham Square the place to be seen!
In common with the vast majority of Londoners at that time I certainly had very little money to spare and it wasn’t until Biba arrived that the door was opened for a spending spree. Sadly my husband is no longer with us, but all of the Quant gang were customers of his, and he would have had many a tale to tell.
This was beginning of the post war social revolution. It was an extraordinarily happy time, with artists, actors, and the new fashion world creating a hub in Chelsea that became the centre of youth and artistry for many, many years.
I wish that I could tell you more tales of Mary…but to me, I would stand with my mouth open and gaze at her challenge to the very aristocratic Nora Bradley shop on the opposite corner!!