John Bates, the designer who invented the mini skirt has died

Bates, whose label Jean Varon was one of the most influential British brands in the 60s and 70s, dressed celebrities, royalty and the woman in the street and helped to transform fashion in the process.

In the 60s, he claimed to have been the originator of the miniskirt. And he influenced the way women dressed during that decade, both through his general collections and the modernist clothes he designed for Diana Ring in her unforgettable first series as Emma peel in The Avengers.

His use of modern shapes and materials with ultra-simple silhouettes summed up the decade. But his work morphed into the 70s and summed up that decade too with its more ethereal, dreamy, retro-influenced style.

Jean Varon’s highly detailed and colourful maxi dresses were as much in demand as his minidresses were and both the 60s and 70s looks he created fetch high prices among vintage fashion collectors.

Unlike some designers, his work can still be seen regularly by anyone watching re-runs of The Avengers, of 1970s sitcom The Good Life, or Maggie Smith in 1978 movie California Suite. 

Bates was born into a mining family in Northern England in the 1930s and after moving to London and being unsure of what he wanted to do with his life, he eventually decided to make a career in fashion and was taken on by Chelsea couturier Herbert Sidon.

After a few false starts, he gained backers for his own label that he launched in 1959 under the name Jean Varon.

Targeting ordinary young women, his work was noted for its colour and simplicity — as well as its shorter hemlines that didn’t go down well with many buyers. However, Wallis bought the collection and it made a major impact so he ended up with his own line for the retailer, as well as concessions in luxury department stores.

  • With information from the Fashion Network.