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Mary Quant, the Swinging ‘60s & Gala Cosmetics


“The most exciting day of my life” - that was how Mary Quant described the time in 1966 she met Stanley Picker, an American cosmetics manufacturer with a factory on Hook Rise, part of the Chessington industrial estate. 

Quant was looking for somebody to help develop her line of cosmetics, which she was determined would be known for its beautiful and chic packaging. When Picker came into her garage studio, it sparked a wildly successful partnership that saw the Mary Quant brand become one of the most iconic symbols of the Swinging Sixties. They set to work that afternoon, and spent the next 18 months on developing, testing and launching the products. And at the Hook Rise factory, an army of Gala Cosmetics workers was ready to deliver them.

“It was the one time in my life I had total, total confidence in a venture's success. Stanley Picker simply let me rip from an ideas point of view, which I had never experienced before and, during the tests with his team and skills, everything came right.” - Mary Quant

Gala’s presence on the industrial estate can be traced back to the early 1940s, when Miners make-up company moved into a unit on Hook Rise. Miners was bought by Stanley Picker in 1960, who lived in Kingston Hill at the time and owned the US-based Gala Cosmetics, set up by his father shortly after the Great Depression. As part of the buy-out, Stanley took ownership of the Miners factory – itself a site with a history of design and innovation, having been home to the pioneering furniture maker Betty Joel in the 1920s.

Instead of renaming the products to Gala, he chose to keep the incredibly popular Miners brand, understanding the importance of brand loyalty. He is also often credited as being the pioneer of women matching their lipstick to their nail polish – a stroke of marketing genius which saw the company’s profits rocket! 


In 1964, Gala successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange and secured a huge investment, which was used to scale up operations at Cox Lane by modernising the factory and setting up a global distribution hub at Chobham. The factory employed hundreds of women who staffed the production line, turning out lipsticks, powder compacts and other make-up under the Gala, Miners and Outdoor Girl brands. And then came the Mary Quant deal in 1966.


Under the contract, Gala would manufacture, distribute and market cosmetics branded with Quant’s iconic black daisy logo. Produced by shop floor workers at Cox Lane, Quant-branded products were shipped to and sold to countries around the world. Shortly after signing the deal with Gala, Mary Quant was awarded an OBE for her services to exports.

In 1970 Gala was taken over by major multinational Smith and Nephew, who already owned brands such as Nivea and Elastoplast. Miners, Mary Quant and Outdoor Girl branded products continued to be produced on Cox Lane until Smith and Nephew were forced to save costs and sell the brands, with Max Factor acquiring Gala’s product range.

Quant Crayons.png

With manufacturing moved outside of the UK, the Cox Lane factory was closed down and eventually destroyed by 1981 – as well as jobs, one of the borough’s most recognisable buildings was lost. 


The Community Brain has been fortunate enough to trace down a number of former workers from the Cox Lane site, covering the factory floor, R&D, and the offices. 

The cultural importance of Mary Quant

The cultural importance of Mary Quant
- Professor Fran Lloyd

Fran Lloyd is Professor of Art History at Kingston University, and has researched the Gala Cosmetics factory to inform a book on its owner, Stanley Picker, and his extensive art collection. 


She spoke about how the Gala factory was decorated with various artworks that Stanley had acquired, the relationship between Picker and Mary Quant, and the positive working conditions that became a cornerstone of Gala’s corporate culture.

Clip 1a - Buying the factoryFran Lloyd
00:00 / 01:02
Clip 1b - Stanley Picker and Mary QuantFran Lloyd
00:00 / 02:11
Clip 1c - Positive working conditionsFran Lloyd
00:00 / 01:01

Pat Cann

Pat Cann was 19 years old when she started working on Gala’s ‘Factory 2’ site on Cox Lane, separate to the main Hook Rose factory.


In her interview, she recalled being rotated around different sections of the factory to avoid going ‘stir crazy’ through monotonous jobs, and how she found herself working on the lines for eyeshadow and Mary Quant perfume.

Clip 2a - The roles of the job Pat Cann
00:00 / 01:18
Clip 2b - The ‘rolls’ of the job Pat Cann
00:00 / 00:55
Clip 2c - Perks of the jobPat Cann
00:00 / 01:31

Angela Hilton

Angela Hilton joined Gala in her teens as a summer holiday job, and found herself working on the glass bottle belts for Miners shampoo, nail varnish removal and aftershave.


She spoke of a positive atmosphere between members of her team and the excitement of the complementary ‘shilling bags’ of makeup that workers received.

Clip 3a - The job itselfAngela Hilton
00:00 / 00:57
Clip 3b - Switching belts Angela Hilton
00:00 / 00:37
Clip 3c - The joy of the ‘shilling bag’Angela Hilton
00:00 / 00:44
The Factory Floor

The Factory Floor

Research & Development 
- Helen Bettell-Higgins

Looking for work after leaving school, Helen Bettell-Higgins found herself offered a lab based job at Gala. She soon became a 16 year old ‘colour technician’ – despite initially having very little idea what such a job entailed – and was still working at Gala when the factory closed.

Clip 4a - How much?! Helen Bettell-Higgins
00:00 / 00:46
Clip 4b - Creating colours in a coffee grinder Helen Bettell-Higgins
00:00 / 01:09
Clip 4c - Making your own makeupHelen Bettell-Higgins
00:00 / 00:41
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In 1982, Helen and her role at Gala featured in the 1982 Girl Guides annual.

Research & Development

Glynis Hill

Glynis Hill was employed as a 19 year old junior secretary to Gala’s owner, Stanley Picker, which involved her serving drinks whilst he met with Mary Quant. She spoke with The Community Brain about his leadership style, as well her various responsibilities in the job.

Clip 5a - Next of kin confusion and Mrs Lewis’ coffee
00:00 / 00:54
Clip 5b - Memories of Stanley Picker Glynis Hill
00:00 / 00:30
Clip 5c - Mary Quant’s visits and the makeup
00:00 / 00:48
Tony Peake Pensioners Party 1977.jpg

Tony Peake

As a young man in the late 1970s, Tony Peake began working with Gala Cosmetics as a ‘Manpower Planning Officer’, helping managers to identify the number of workers they would need to fulfil their contracts.


He later worked in an employee relations role, negotiating with trade unions on behalf of the company, and had the unenviable task of planning mass redundancies as the factory prepared for closure in 1981.

Clip 6a - A full tour of the factory Tony Peake
00:00 / 02:26
Clip 6b - Positive work cultureTony Peake
00:00 / 00:52
Clip 6c - The tragedy of factory closureTony Peake
00:00 / 01:52

The Offices

The Offices

Discover more about Cox Lane Industrial Estate

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