With the V&A’s current Dior and Quant exhibitions making even the national news, and tickets at a premium, it was good to remember that Mary Quant, and her contemporary Terence Conran, were also the subject of a much more intimate exhibition at one of our favourite venues, the Fashion and Textile Museum, tucked away in a rapidly up and coming milieu of Bermondsey Street. This seemed somehow more appropriate, given that their world gained momentum in a similarly run-down thoroughfare on the other side of London – though sadly these days it is hard to think of the King’s Road in Chelsea as other than a high end shopping destination. Even now they’re cleaned up, the railway arches and warehouses of London Bridge and Bermondsey created a more fitting impression of the subversiveness of the post-war generation of designers, using Chelsea’s shabby background to launch ranges of clothing and housewares that would appeal to the young generation with no desire to recreate the look and homes of their pre-war parents’ youth. Likewise, Bermondsey’s coffee shops and independent cafes have more of the air of the 50s and 60s coffee bars, bistros and trattorias than the current King’s Road (and we’re still mourning the sudden demise of the Stockpot), so we were in the right mood for the Fashion and Textile Museum’s latest show.

The Museum comprises one main central space, with an upstairs mezzanine gallery. With their emphasis usually on clothing and accessories alone, that usually results in a series of themed platforms comprising costumed dummies. For this exhibition, though, the injection of the Conran theme prompted a switch to room settings on the ground floor, some cleverly-designed to allow flow all around them, allowing Quant’s clothing to be seen against the background of contemporary furniture and fittings, and vice versa. Given that they are so indelibly associated with the Swinging Sixties, it’s always a bit of a surprise to be remembered that both Quant and Conran’s careers began in the 50s, with Quant’s first boutique opening in 1955 and her second, designed by Conran, in 1957. Indeed, there were some items – still intensely modernist in appearance – that dated from the late 1940s. There were nods to other 60s design icons as well: Elizabeth David and her revolution in Britain’s eating habits, and Conran’s major influences, sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi and Surrealist artist Piero Fornasetti. The Ashleys, Bernard and Laura, made an appearance, too, both for their initial textile work and, of course, their later clothing ranges.

With the Museum’s usual attention to the detail of accessories, we were also treated to the wider aspects of the Quant range, particularly her own range of make-up, but extending to paraphernalia such as bags, tights and even a Quant-branded radio. Inevitably, such a mouth-watering range of exhibits prompts that ‘what would you take home’ conversation (crockery for me – those PVC boots just wouldn’t look right on my legs!), but fortunately the Museum always extends its theme to its small but well-stocked shop, so there’s plenty to tempt the wallet as well as the eyes.

Swinging London – A Lifestyle Revolution is open till 2 June and you can find all the details on the Museum’s website and Facebook page.