After a spell working as a florist then as photography and caption manager at Keystone Press a young Tracey Mogard joined theatrical millinery company Jane Smith Straw Hats. Commuting on her skateboard to a studio in Brixton Tracey worked on diverse theatre, film and TV projects ranging from “Poirot”, “Me and My Gal”, Bertilucci’s “Sheltering Sky”, “Whoops Apocalypse!” and “The Wives of Henry the Eighth” for the Madam Tussauds Museum.
Building upon success and reputation Jane Smith Straw Hats had to expand and seek larger premises, and so the shop and workroom in St. Philip Street Battersea were taken on.
To help with the increasing demand of the business Tracey and Jane took on two fresh-faced young milliners. Lucy Hodges who had just graduated from Edinburgh University and Kiwi Law Graduate Robyn Allardice.
Jane Smith Straw Hats went from strength to strength with the young influences pushing the products much more towards the fashion industry. Jane, who is considered as one of the best theatre milliners in her field as well as being an incredibly inspirational teacher wanted to follow her passions and so decided to leave Jane Smith Straw Hats and sold her part of the business to Tracey.
To avoid the confusion of now having a company called Jane Smith Straw Hats even though Jane Smith had left, Tracey changed the name to Herald & Heart Hatters and was joined by Lucy and Robyn as partners. This gave the business a focus in the fashion industry.
As well as the bespoke business the desire was to create collections for the wholesale market. In the Summer of 1992, Herald & Heart produced their first wholesale collection. This was instantly picked up by Harrods followed on by many independent boutiques and department stores.
In October of 1992 Tracey met Ken White. Ken, a fashion photographer, agreed to visit the London business to photograph the new collections of hats. He soon joined the company looking after the marketing and administration which allowed the partners more time doing what they did best, ie creating beautiful hats.
Herald and Heart made the hats for the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral.
When award-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming was looking for hats for the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral her first thoughts were to trawl the London West End stores and check out their hat departments.
Her team visited Harrods, Selfridges, John Lewis and Fenwick and discovered that in each store the hats that they were most attracted to all bore the Herald & Heart label. So there seemed only one thing to do.
After much searching for a London cab to go south of the river the team pitched up at our Battersea studio and ordered hats directly from us. We made the hats and sent them off. Many months later, long after we had forgotten about this small budget little film with a strange title, we received a long distance call from an excited American magazine telling us that we had won their accessory of the year award for Andie MacDowell’s hat in the film.
During the conversation, the line went dead and we never found out who the magazine was! The film, and Miss MacDowell however, put us firmly in the public eye with pictures of her looking fab in the hat, hitting the headlines all around the world. Needless to say that after that we were very much in demand. 10 years after the film was released we received a commemorative script of the movie signed by Richard Curtis the Writer and Mike Newell the director.
Thanks guys, and thank you Lindy, we’ve been dining out on this now for years!
After successful shows at London, Paris and New York Fashion weeks, Herald & Heart were now International milliners. The collections now being sold in stores and boutiques around the world. Saks, Henri Bendels and Barney’s in the USA, David Jones and Myers in Australia, Gallery Lafayette and Frank et Fils in Paris were amongst the many prestigious stores carrying the Herald & Heart label. Plus many small independent hat shops. Production was at full throttle with the milliners working around the clock to keep up with demand.
By this time Herald & Heart were in practically every good department store in the UK. Harrods, Fenwick, Selfridges, John Lewis all stocked Herald & Heart hats, as did Jenners of Edinburgh, House of Fraser and Debenhams. There were independent stockists in most towns too. Although the business was really successful it was clear that Robyn’s first love was with the Law and so she decided to pursue a career that she had studied long and hard for. Lucy was also feeling restless and although her love of hatting was strong (it still is!) she wanted to see a bit of the world and so went travelling. Tracey and Ken became business partners and by coincidence married on the same weekend in June.
As part of a British delegation of top fashion designers, Herald & Heart were invited to accompany Their Royal Highnesses Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to Bangkok to boost fashion exports to the Far East.
By now along with producing own label hats, Herald & Heart were designing and making for other labels including Swaine Adeney Brigg, Belville Sassoon and Hussein Chalayan.
Further London expansion took place with the opening of a second shop, this time in Herne Hill. This also acted as a base for the rapidly growing men’s whole business.
Around this time we were approached to design a collection of hats to bear the official Royal Ascot Brand. Working closely with Selfridges we designed a very successful collection that was stocked throughout the UK and Ireland in, as they say, all good millinery outlets!
While taking a rest from a hectic London Fashion Week, Ken bought a book about the legendary John B Stetson Company and wondered why such a historical and important hat brand wasn’t on sale in the UK. Ten days later we were sitting in offices in the Empire State Building in New York persuading the directors of Stetson that we could re-launch their company on this side of the Atlantic. We got the job and became the official Stetson agents.
To cater to the needs of male hat wearers we created The Susquehana Hat Company. The name came from an old Abbott and Costello sketch. We designed the men’s range and had them made through a cooperation with a couple of family-run factories in Poland. Very soon we were supplying these to shops throughout the length and breadth of Britain.
2002 coincided with the end of our leases on the shops in London. The commercial property boom at the time was making the likelihood of renewing these leases far less viable than we had hoped. So a relocation was in order. After much travelling around, which included Cornish Mills and haunted French Chateaux we finally settled much closer to our roots in Rye. It was a return for Ken as he had worked at the famous Mermaid Hotel as a chef when he first left school.
The hope was that country life would come with a slower pace of life and less demand. It was not to be. The wholesale increased even more along with design and supply contracts for other Houses such as Frank Usher and Dusk. We opened our shop on Rye High Street which soon became a destination for many of our existing clientele along with the many new customers that were discovering us.
Building upon the very successful relationship with Tilley Endurables, Herald and Heart were awarded the Tilley agency for the South of England.