Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Mary Quant Is Proof That We All Have to Move On

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Mary Quant Is Proof That We All Have to Move On

Article excerpt

If you are in London for the January sales, can I suggest a quick pit-stop? Just across the road from Harrods in trendy Knightsbridge is a lovely tree-lined road called Montpelier Street. Immediately on your left, tucked between the sandwich shops and cafes, is a boutique bearing the name Mary Quant. It is a small shop - more than six customers makes it feels crowded - and it contains a limited combination of clothing, accessories, handbags and cosmetics. Yet it is a shop that presents marketers with an invaluable lesson in brand management.

Thirty years ago Mary Quant was at her zenith. She was set to launch the mini-skirt on an unsuspecting world and her designs were a global sensation. By 1969 it was estimated that more than 7m people owned at least one item bearing the designer's daisy logo. Despite its global appeal, Mary Quant was indelibly linked with London, a brand that came wrapped up in the cultural attraction of the swinging 60s.

Quant herself was an iconic figure who took great pleasure in breaking the conservative rules of women's fashion, once famously dyeing her pubic hair green and referring to this taboo area as 'the crutch' during an interview with The Guardian.

What happened next was as predictable as it was avoidable. The very strength and ubiquity of the Quant name became its weakness. Because Mary Quant had been so successful during the 60s, the brand became associated with the decade, and when the fashion scene moved inexorably on to the 70s and 80s, Mary Quant was left behind. The iconic designs that made it first cutting edge, and then contemporary, finally made it seem stale. Even loyal customers did the brand no favours at all. Their continued patronage meant that as they aged, so did the brand. New, younger customers were turned off by this brand gentrification and sought their fashions elsewhere.

Today, the Montpelier Street shop and two other small boutiques in Paris and New York are all that is left. Since 2000 the Japanese have been running the brand, with the result that the price tags of Mary Quant cosmetics and accessories are now displayed in yen, with the equivalent in sterling written beneath.

Mary Quant has ultimately become everything it was not. Where once the brand was British, now it is Japanese; where once it was contemporary, now it is historic; where once its fashions were the centre of the brand, the make-up range is now its focus. …

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