Only Hearts, a retail and design company created by Helena Stuart for the “shameless romantic,” is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Stuart, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, started her business on Columbus Avenue in Manhattan as a “tiny, outrageous temple to all things heart-shaped” that showcased everything from vintage lockets to sexy corsets.
She opened the store after being fired as a saleswoman in the hosiery department at Bonwit Teller for not wearing a bra.
“I kept on saying to them, ‘I want to work in sportswear,’ and they kept telling me ‘no,’” Stuart recalled. “They had warned me for going braless, but one day I forgot to bring a little triangle bra by John Kloss to work with me. So they fired me.”
Stuart now oversees a wholesale operation, two specialty shops in Manhattan, a boutique in Santa Monica, Calif., and three boutiques in Rome. Total combined annual sales are $2 million for the U.S. units, and 1.6 million euros, or approximately $2.1 million, for Italy, she said.
“We developed a neighborhood following” after launching on the Upper West Side, remembered Stuart, whose daughter, Kaya Stuart, is a partner in the business.
Kaya, who attended Parsons School of Design and is a former pastry chef, contributes to both management and design of the Helena Stuart for Only Hearts brand.
Sleepwear and daywear, a majority of which has an innerwear-outerwear look in cotton with minimal lace and heart-pattern embroidered embellishments, retails for $65 to $300, and $35 to $200, respectively. Ready-to-wear is priced $85 to $500. The U.S. boutiques also sell bras by Princesse Tam Tam, Huit, Myla, Timpa and Le Mystere.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary, Only Hearts launched a monthlong campaign in November with a heart motif called “I [Love] Sharing.”
“The idea was to fight holiday hunger,” said Stuart, who teamed up with The Food Bank for New York City and St. Joseph’s Center in Venice, Calif.