Debut filmmaker Sadie Frost’s Quant is less about the life of titular fashion mogul Mary Quant than it is a tribute to her legacy of shaping the counterculture of the 1960s and beyond. She was a revolutionary in gender politics, design and marketing her style to the world. But despite a plethora of talking points that span decades of the now 92-year-old’s life, the documentary has surprisingly little to say about any of its subjects.
The feature gets off to a solid start as London enters the vibrant 60s. A new generation of women are seeking to distinguish themselves from their mothers’ fashion sense and find a wardrobe that’s new, exciting and freeing. Quant (alongside her business partner and husband Alexander Plunket Greene) were the ones who championed this new era of youth through fashion, capturing the zeitgeist, with Quant’s bold creations becoming synonymous with the period. Various industry insiders dutifully and lovingly explain why her style was so influential to culture and feminism, while colourful archive footage serves to prove their points.
However, the 60s didn’t last forever; and when the documentary hits the beginning of the 70s it loses its train of thought as the glossy charm begins to fade away. The structure becomes increasingly erratic, drifting from one point to the next without the thought or focus of what proceeded it.
The lack of critical engagement in the latter half is likewise emphasised through the filmmaker’s habit of skimming over topics that could question Quant’s legacy: a discussion about whether she did invent the miniskirt, for instance, is over before it barely begins. And, more egregiously, commentary criticising the culture of fast-fashion that Quant helmed feels like an extra, tacked on at the last minute. It’s the most interesting part of the documentary, but it feels the most out of place.
Mary Quant is a hugely iconic figure whose cultural influence cannot be underestimated. However, by attempting to cover all the bases of her legacy in this documentary, Frost struggles to latch onto a concrete angle to explore the fashion mogul in any substantial way.
Quant is released nationwide on 29th October 2021.
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Watch the trailer for Quant here: