Scene: Helena Stuart of Only Hearts. I went to visit her Nolita store to interview her and take photographs. I met Helena a few years ago in Kingston, NY at the StockadeFaire event where she was selling her beautiful lingerie, sleep/lounge wear, and outerwear.
A FIT graduate, Helena Stuart founded Only Hearts in 1978, creating fashion’s first Inner Outerwear™ collection, revolutionizing undergarment dressing to come out and be seen. Today Helena, working with daughter Kaya, offers a range of sustainable items. Only Hearts garments are made of 100% organic Pima cotton sourced from Peru and ethically made in New York City. Additionally, Only Hearts clothing is produced according to multiple global standards from production to distribution with natural and organic materials. This eco-friendly brand’s goal is to keep their carbon footprint to a minimum while respecting the environment and creating premium quality offerings.
They have three stores, two in Manhattan and one in Los Angeles. Only Hearts sensuous and natural pieces are worn by celebrities including Addison Rae, Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner, Cardi B, Bella Hadid, Paris Campbell – Comedian, Charlotte D’ Alessio, Lupe Fuentes – DJ, Mott Street Girls, Luna Blaise – Actor, Lydia Campanellli – Influencer, Lucy Rae McFadin – Influencer / Model, Kate Moss, Charlize Theron, Bjork, Jennifer Aniston, Scarlett Johansson, Sharlom Harlow, and Madonna.
But they are mostly interested in girls and women of today.
Scene: Velvet Underground Eva Top in khol, from their Stable Collection.
Scene: Coucou Lola Eva in plum, from their Stable Collection.
Scene: A colorful array of bodysuits, from their Stable Collection.
Scene: Venice Sleep Bralette and Brief in black, from their Stable Collection.
Scene: Must have Thongs in various colors, from their Stable Collection.
Scene: Vintage Green Floral Multiprint Kimona with belt and tie, circa 1980’s.
Scene: Venus Square Bralette and Brief in tango. Baby G in black and tango, all from their Stable Collection.
Scene: Venus Square Bralette, which is a new collection piece. And Prop Pant with Lace, both in black, from their Stable Collection.
Scene: Stretch Lace Chemise Slips in various colors, from their Stable Collection. This was Helena’s first creation for Only Hearts which were hand dyed in her kitchen in 1980.
Scene: Jacquard Silk Pajama Set in wine, from their Stable Collection.
Scene: Go Ask Alice Button Down Shirt in smoke with mushroom pattern, which is a new collection piece.
Scene: So Fine Lace Cheeky Bodysuit in Blu Smoke, from their Stable Collection.
Scene: Beatrix Coucou Body with embroidered roses, which is a limited fashion piece.
Scene and Heard: Excerpts from my interview with Helena Stuart —
So nice to see you again Helena. It’s been a while, but I’m happy we have this opportunity to have a conversation and get to know a little bit more about you and your company.
My first question is… How did you and Liz Rosenberg, the music publicist, connect when she asked you to design for her?
Jonathan, my husband, is in the music business and Liz must have heard of my planning to open a shop with Only Hearts. Rod Stewart was having a party at Regine’s celebrating “You’re in my Heart “and Liz asked me to be creative with the invitation. I had a Heart Bakelite Pin made and put it in a craft box because I’m always environmentally conscious. That was the only way into the party. Of course, Jonathan and I wore the pin. It was a fun night! That was a real boost to open the shop.
Later, Ian Schrager came by the shop and not only did his personal Valentine shopping but I supplied Studio 54 with all their gifts for the Valentine’s Day Fashion Shows at the Club. It was a crazy time and I learned a lot.
What is your favorite item in your closet?
I love silk slips and have always worn them. My favorite is the Silk Mini Slip which debuted in the Fall 2002. It’s been in production for over 20 years. We have fun with colors. We now do five colors a year.
What color of the slip do you like best?
Probably vintage ivory which is off-white.
What do you like about what you do?
It’s amazing to have the opportunity to be creative every day. I get to be creative not only in design but my mind is constantly challenged with problem solving. Everyday there’s some other thing that I’ve got to figure out with fabric deliveries. Even something so simple as the color of a thread. I like what I do. I feel so lucky, it really is a thrill!
I love that you use organic materials and that you are environmentally conscious. It’s really an accolade to you and your company.
We have been thinking about the environment from the very beginning. A side story, a few months’ after opening the first shop on Columbus Avenue, I received a ticket from the sanitation department because I didn’t have a sticker that noted the trash collecting service. I wasn’t using one because we didn’t make enough trash. The shop was 160 square feet. We truly recycled everything. I went to court with my weekly bag of garbage to show what it was that we threw out. I won! I’m very proud of that. It’s who I am and Only Hearts is a reflection.
Tell me about the project you are proudest of and why?
The project is Only Hearts. I built a company that supports my community. We are ethical and kind to each other and the people that we do business with. That’s why I’ve been doing this for so many years.
Are there any fashion designers, past and or present, that appeal to you?
When St. Laurent was designing, today, I would probably say Phoebe Philo, I think she is just brilliant. I was inspired to start my business by women who have their own point of view; Betsy Johnson, Norma Kamali and Agnes B. I’m not so influenced by any particular designer but more by my needs, my friends’ needs, and people on the street.
What inspires you in life?
I love to be fully intensely engaged so how do I do that… with work, with my family, and traveling.
You have the store in Los Angeles, right?
Yes, it’s a great store, I love visiting. I used to spend a lot of time in LA, but now I just don’t make it out there that often.
In reference to being inspired by people on the street, what is your take on street style or personal style?
I don’t see the difference between personal style and street style. A person who has great style is someone who is comfortable in their own skin and has enough courage to do their own thing.
What do you define fashion as for your brand?
I don’t think in those terms. I do look at the color range that Premier Vision Paris proposes and will incorporate a few of those colors into the season’s color palette blending them into what I want to wear. Mostly peeking out from underneath. I still try on every piece we produce. If it’s not right, we fix it or don’t ship it. That’s one of the ways we maintain quality. I care about making a timeless and beautifully designed piece.
When you design a collection, does that theme carry out through your intimate, your lounge, and outerwear divisions?
I trademarked Inner Outerwear in 1981 and that’s how I like to think about what we do. I don’t think about this is ready-to-wear, this is lingerie. You’re wearing your pajamas out and so they are both. Your dresses and your slips, you’re wearing out. I went back to my roots. That’s why I went into intimate apparel because I like making things that I like to wear. That’s how it happened.
So, my last question is… I guess, each division has its own personality. If your theme, let’s say this coming fall is the alps would you incorporate that in all of them?
I don’t think about themes; It’s more about color stories for me. That’s why we have multigenerational clients who collect our designs at Only Hearts.
Scene: Only Hearts ad as seen in 25A Magazine and Metropolitan Palm Beach Magazine.
Scene: Camo Barbie Tanya Body, from their Fall Collection 2023.
Scene: Camo Barbie Ruched Cami and Camo Barbie Sonia Slip, from their Fall Collection 2023.
Scene: Coucou Lola Joey Bralette and Side Ruffle Thong, from their Spring Collection.
Scene: Coucou Lola Bralette and Coucou Joey Bralette, from their Spring Collection.
Scene: Go Ask Alice Button Up Shirt and Baby Tank both with mushroom pattern, from their Spring Collection.
Scene: The welcoming mosaic branding at the Nolita store front door.
Visit at https://onlyhearts.com/ to view their beautiful and sensuous offerings.
Special thanks to Amanda, Eden, and Gisselle who work at the Nolita store. Photos 16-20 courtesy of Only Hearts.