Brand New Retro: Mary Quant in Cabra

Posted May 25, 2023 in Brand New Retro

“Hearing of the death of Mary Quant brought back a memory of going on a school tour to her make-up and perfume factory in Cabra West in 1974.” Karen was on the phone to RTE’s Liveline the day after Mary Quant died: “I was ten-years old,” she continued, “and I vividly remember the whole class walking from St Catherine’s National School to her factory in the nearby Broombridge Industrial Estate. It was a wonderful tour.” Intrigued, and excited to hear of this Quant Cabra connection, I had to find out more. This is what I discovered…

Mary Quant ad – Ireland’s New Woman magazine 1967

The story goes back to 1936 with the foundation (sorry!) of Crystal Products Ltd, an Irish cosmetic company, which manufactured a range of make-up brands for the domestic and export markets, including Gala of London, Outdoor Girl and Miners. In 1966, they moved operations from Dublin 2 to a brand-new factory in the Broombridge Industrial estate – just beyond the humpback bridge on the northern bank of the Royal Canal at the Cabra/Finglas border.

Arnotts ad for Mary Quant Week – Evening Herald 21st April 1967

When Mary Quant entered the make-up business in 1966, she teamed up with Gala Cosmetics to take care of production. Gala arranged for Crystal Products to start manufacturing the new Quant range straight away. The make-up was beautifully packed and stamped with her famous daisy trademark. Mary came to Dublin with her husband Alexander Plunkett-Green in April 1967 to launch her make-up on the Irish market. She spoke at the launch event at the Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire and did press interviews. To coincide with her visit, Arnotts ran a special Mary Quant Make-up Week (see advert from Evening Herald 21st April 1967) and Ireland’s women’s magazines carried full page adverts. Unfortunately, I found no record of Mary visiting the factory in Broombridge during her Dublin stay.

Gala of London ad – Woman’s Way, May 1967

June, a longtime Cabra resident, visited the Broombridge factory regularly during the 1970s. “My sister worked there for over ten years,” June told me. “We called it the Gala factory, it made multiple brands, not just Mary Quant. It was a nice place to work, it had good conditions, overtime was available, and the factory had a full hot-dinner canteen (unusual for Irish factories then). Staff got a discount, so we often got the new lipsticks before they hit the shops.”

The factory expanded in the 1970s when Melina, the long-established Cork cosmetic firm, merged with Crystal Products and moved their operations to Broombridge in 1972. Business continued into the 1980s, but seems to have closed later that decade.

Words: Brian McMahon, Brand New Retro


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