SUIT YOURSELF INTERVIEWS
POLLY M LOVE
After reading the fantastic reviews coming out of the V&A about the Mary Quant exhibition, we thought it only right to ask a Mary Quant fan to write a review, we thought our luck was in when one of our readers offered to write one for us that can be found elsewhere in the site. We thought that fantastic enough! Then it was like the stars aligned and shone down on Suit Yourself towers as a very special thing happened, we thought we would chance our arm once we found out that Polly M Love had donated a large part of her personal collection to the museum especially for the exhibition and ask, ever so cheekily if we could have an interview with her for the website. Imagine our surprise when she not only offered to do the interview about the exhibition but also chat with us about everything she loves about the Modernist scene and her history within it. we had truly found our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
So, with no further ado, we give you a true Irish jewel, an exceptional DJ, fantastic designer, stylist, Icon and avid Mary Quant collector without whom the exhibition may have only been half as good. Polly M Love, or Pol as she will affectionately be known here in the Suit Yourself towers talks exclusively about the famous exhibition, the Irish scene, her love of music, fashion and design, her early influences and the influences she is obviously having on the younger generation (check out the young Liam Kane in Polly's house - Too cool) Also about the future of her collection and tips for budding collectors everywhere.......
Hi Polly, Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from, where your love of design and music came from.
I’m from Dublin, the small but perfectly formed capital of Ireland! My love of music comes from my parents. They are music mad, the house revolved around the record player growing up and they still regularly go to gigs all over Ireland.
My parents, aunts and uncles were all teenagers in the 1960’s and like most of their generation style was very important to them. My mother was a hairdresser, dad a fox furrier, uncle was a tailor, aunt a dress maker. My dad and his siblings were raised in the UK, and brought some of that Englishness with them when they moved to Ireland. Like most of their generation they had children when very young and we were all born in the 1970’s. As kids, we had Daisy dolls, not Sindy - Daisy was cheaper and had lots more accessories, very important when you’re a little girl. My love of design definitely started there.
Can you tell us about being part of the Mod/Modernist scene, what it means to you, how you became part of it and how it has played a huge part of your life.
You know how it is for most of us lifers, it’s such a big part of us we can’t even see it. We are the scene, and the scene is us.
For me it started in the 80's. My first boyfriend was a Mod, his older brother was also a Mod and had been a regular attendee at a well known Dublin club called Bubbles. He taught me how to dance to Northern Soul (thank you Kieron) and my love for all things Mod grew from there. I grew up listening to the Small Faces, Howlin’ Wolf & The Four Tops, so Northern was a natural expansion of that. For me its all about the music. Music first, style second. When I was old enough to start going to clubs, it was the late 80's and the Mod scene in Dublin was dead in the water. However, there was a fantastic Skinhead scene and very healthy Scooter Scene. The Fox & Pheasant pub was the home of that scene in Dublin back then. There were bands and club nights on all the time, and I dived head long into it. I loved it, still do.
What does the scene mean to me now? It’s family, community and the type of camaraderie most people only get to experience if they join the army. I only hope my kids get to experience something like it in their lifetimes.
Can we would like to talk to you about you love of music. Can you tell us about your early musical influences and what style of music you play.
I’m sitting here surrounded by records wondering how can I answer that question! Music is my life. Besides growing up with it, as I explained above, music is the thread that holds my life together. All the friends I have in my life I met through music. Either on a bus going to a gig, in a pub listening to music, going to a club, on a Scooter rally, on a dance floor. My early influences go from my parents 60's records, to Punk, Rockabilly, Ska, Skinhead Reggae and Northern Soul.
Nowadays I play a mixed bag. At a soul do I’ll be playing classic Northern, crossover and newies. At a mod do, it’s everything from garage to latin boogaloo, RnB, ska and soul. I’m a floor watcher, it’s my job to make sure people enjoy themselves. Ireland went through a scene renaissance in the 90's. There were Acid Jazz gigs and clubs, new Soul clubs, lock-ins the newly opened Blue Note Cafe, people coming to Dublin to DJ. That influenced my taste and DJ style.
Can you tell us where and how it all began for you, how did you get your first break as a DJ and what the experience was like.
In 1992 I started running Northern Soul nights as part of the Celtic Soul Brothers crew. They were great times, even if we got thrown out of every venue in Dublin. First time I played records was at one of my own nights back in the early 90's, I was so nervous I could barely put the needle on the record. I still get the jitters even all these years later, but it’s always an honor to be asked to DJ.
Can you tell us a little about the scene in Ireland, the clubs, the music, the fashion.
The scene here is always shifting, evolving. There are little pockets of Mod outside Dublin and Belfast, but most of the scene is concentrated in these two city’s. It’s a very friendly scene, we make a huge effort to welcome people. Clubs range from Psyche nights like Mindfuzz , Mod clubs like Shake Yer Hips, Soul Clubs like Pow City, What Is Soul and Backtrack. Lots of scooter dos and gigs and some great radio shows like Sarges Saturday Service and Superfly Funk n Soul. Fashion wise there’s one shop in Dublin catering for Mods & Skins called Rebirth of Cool & some really nice vintage clothing shops.
You are a very respected DJ right across the scene can you tell us about some of the residencies you hold and some of your favourite clubs you’ve played in as a guest.
My favourite soul night is Pow City. It’s a club that’s always pushing boundaries, they have lots of DJs from the UK & Europe, and its run by the kind of people who are doing it out of pure love. It’s one of my favourite gigs. I’ve played at various clubs like Mixed Up Vinyl in Glasgow, What Is Soul, Soul Fusion, and Saturday Social. I run my own night called Mash It Up, which has been in hibernation for a year but will be making a return soon.
But my favourite gig is the epic Modcast Boat Cruise. I’m back on the boat to DJ for the third time in September, and I can’t wait.
Have you played anywhere else in the world? And what is it that keeps you buzzing about the art of turntablism.
Dublin, Belfast, Glasgow & London. It can be hard to do gigs in Europe, I don’t have a lot of time to travel with work, kids & dogs so I keep it close as I can to Dublin. What keeps me buzzing? The constant search for that new track, one you can build a whole set around. That and a happy dance floor.
Talking art and design, can you tell our readers about your passion for design, particularly clothing. How it all began and how you fit into the design world.
I’m a Graphic Designer and I love art and I see really beautiful clothing as just that, an art form. It goes back to my family all being in the rag trade. They made all our clothes as kids, most people did in the 70's/80's. If my Mam, Nan and Aunties weren’t hammering away on the sewing machine they were knitting or crocheting. That kind of things seeps into your consciousness, you soak it all up without even realising. It gets stored in your memories.
As a lover of clothing you must have an amazing wardrobe….
It’s like most women's, totally overloaded and overflowing into the kids wardrobes (sorry lads!) and in every cupboard in the house.
You are an avid collector of sixties Icon designer Mary Quant, when did you start collecting and how did this turn into the praised collection it has become today?
I am indeed, I love Mary. It all started when Topshop opened in Dublin on Aston Quay in the 80’s stocking Mary Quant tights, make-up and nail polish, I thought all my birthdays had come together! It was right beside my bus stop and was very exciting. A big, shiny, bright English shop had landed in the dull, run down City Centre that was Dublin in those days. Dublin in the 80’s was grim, very few shops catered to young people and there were derelict sites all over the city centre.
My first Quant purchase was in that Topshop, and continued when I moved to London and New York. I was collecting when buying clothes NOT to wear was just plain weird to most people. But I wanted to preserve her work, like a timeline of 60's style. I never imagined it would end up in an exhibition in the V&A.
So, The V&A museum in London in their wisdom, gave you a call, that must have been a bit mind blowing! How did it all come about and what was your initial reaction?
Honestly, until I went to the opening night I was still in disbelief that it was actually happening. I got in touch with the V&A about 10 years ago about preserving my collection. It goes from furs to suede coats, wool and jersey knits, boots and shoes. And I was a bit lost as how to look after them properly. They got back in touch with me and were an amazing help, told me what to use for storage etc. Then I did an article for a Dublin based magazine called Sussed on my collection, the V&A seen it and it went from there. They decided to do a proper exhibition of Mary's work, the first time it’s ever been done, and the response from people has been immense.
Did you have visitors from the V&A come and look at your collection before approving it for the exhibition?
The lead curator Jenny Lister and her assistant came to my mad house here in Dublin. They spent hours cataloguing everything between cups of tea and playing with my dogs. They were so lovely, I had no qualms about loaning the garments as I could see the respect they had for Mary's work. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of work the V&A put into this exhibition. They were heading to Tunbridge Wells after visiting me to trace the mills where the cloths were made, that’s the level of detail that went into it.
What happened next, did you have to come to London to help with the set up?
What happened next was they sent me a loans request, we signed documents for insurance and legal. And then the fine arts team came to pack everything. They custom cut all the foam packing for all the makeup and bags, wrapped all the garments in acid free paper and every piece had their own boxes to go to London in. I didn’t have to set up in London, thankfully they have proper experts to do that and I’m a total clutz, I wouldn’t let me near a glass case...
Being a huge collector and obviously a massive fan of Mary’s what does it feel like to have your collection on show at such an incredible venue?
It’s really, really amazing. I love the V&A. It’s an internationally respected museum and rightly so. I’ve been behind the scenes to view their historical garments and not only is the building astounding, the staff are really generous with their time and knowledge. It’s a total honour to be involved. Everytime someone sends me a photo of themselves at the exhibition, my heart skips a beat. I’m astounded by it all.
Have you met any of the Quant family? And have you met any interesting people while being part of this experience?
I met Mary and her son about 11 years ago at a talk she was doing in the V&A. She was so lovely, really generous hearted and stood for photo’s with everyone there, it was a sold out talk and she was in her 70's. It was a great experience hearing her tell her story first hand. The people I’ve met through this experience have been just lovely! I’ve had messages from women my Mams age from all over the world. Mary deserves all the kudos she gets. She was breaking new ground in the mid 50's when most women were stuck at home. She was front and centre of a new movement, went out of her way to employ women in her shops and cosmetics labs, marketing and advertising departments and I’m only glad this exhibition has happened in her lifetime.
When does the exhibition run until?
It runs until February 2020 and after the London exhibition ends, it’s going on an International tour. So my dresses get to go on a Jolly while I’m sat here in Dublin.... :)
What happens when the show is over, would you fancy doing more?
I’d love to do something else, but this might be a one off experience. Who knows? Maybe an exhibition here in Dublin. I only loaned the V&A part of my collection so we’ll see.
Back to Polly the collector, as well as being a huge Quant collector are there any other designers you collect and what advise would you give to an aspiring designer collector?
I have a few other collections, Biba, Twiggy dresses and ephemera, Sandie Shaw own label dresses, Pierre Cardin and recently I’ve been picking up the original Duffer of St George pieces. I love Barrie Sharpe’s style, his Yardie Cardies and that Acid Jazz/Duffer vibe from the early 90s is one of my favourite ever men's looks. And I kept all my Skinhead/Suedehead tailor made clothes and still pick up the odd piece here and there. It never ends....
What advise would I give to an aspiring designer collector? Buy what you love. Buy what inspires you. Buy what brings joy to your heart. And if you love something, keep it consistent. Ignore Marie Kondo, she’s the death of all future collectors.
back to your love of music, where can our readers catch you playing?
I’m back in London in September on the Modcast boat, Pow City, the Thomas House bar, What is Soul and who knows what else in the near future.
Lastly, if there was one piece of Mary Quant that you could own but don’t have to complete your collection, which piece would it be?
It would have to be the Christopher Robin PVC coat and with matching sou’wester hat. I missed out on one at auction about 20 years ago and have never seen one for sale since. That or the back to front PVC smock coat. There’s footage of Cynthia Lennon with John Lennon at London airport in February 1964, wearing one. They’re really rare and PVC was one of Mary’s signature looks, she spent years getting the formula right. So if anyone has either knocking around, come find me!
MARY QUANT AT THE V&A - LONDON RUNS UNTIL FEB 2020, MORE INFO HERE
Interviewed by - Cris Davies