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Only Hearts’ 30-Year Work of Art

Only Hearts, a retail and design company created by Helena Stuart for the “shameless romantic,” is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

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Only Hearts, a retail and design company created by Helena Stuart for the “shameless romantic,” is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

This story first appeared in the December 29, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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.

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