Stepping out in a hat always adds a hint of drama and intrigue – whether it’s a Peaky Blinders-esque flat cap, or a classy Kate Middleton-inspired number.
And there’s no better time to get into headgear with the launch of a dedicated hatters in Fulham Road.
The window display at Herald & Heart Hatters is just a taste of things to come inside the shop, which manages to pack in hundreds of hats from trilbies and Panamas, to beautiful millinery and delicate fascinators.
Run by manager Sophie Dallison, the store may be new to the area, but Herald & Heart has a long history that includes featuring in the film Four Weddings & a Funeral, as well as gracing the head of supermodel Naomi Campbell.
“Although we haven’t been in Fulham for very long, we are already becoming part of the neighbourhood,” explains Sophie, who has worked in the shop since it opened at the end of April.
“Customers range from those wanting bespoke millinery to match a particular dress for an event like Royal Ascot to the ones who rush in on a Thursday evening because they have a wedding to attend on Saturday.”
Some customers also remember the original shop in Battersea, which relocated to Rye in Sussex in 2002 after more than 10 years trading in London.
“I love meeting customers who tell me they still have a hat they bought in the shop in Battersea years ago,” reveals Sophie. “I always ask them to bring me photos.”
So after Herald & Heart's initial success in Battersea, why choose Fulham?
Well, the team already knew the area well as creative director Tracey Mogard's sister Jill Lee had run the previous shop – Art Beat – at the same site for the past 33 years.
The high proportion of independently-run stores and creative enterprise was an appealing prospect. "Jill still comes around to say hi," says Sophie. "When she retired it made perfect sense to take over the lease. It's a lovely neighbourhood and fits our brand. We anticipate being here for a very long time and becoming part of the community."
Behind the Herald & Heart brand are creative director Tracey Mogard and commercial director Ken White, who is in charge of the menswear side of the business.
Tracey still creates one-off pieces for the shops in Fulham and Rye, as well as developing off-the-peg designs, while Ken sources the latest in men’s headgear, such as raffia hats, flat caps, Stetson-branded ranges and Panamas, depending on the season.
The handmade women’s hats can take from one day to a week to make, with each hand blocked on a traditional wooden mould to shape its main base.
An eye-catching sunflower design took a week to create, says Sophie, each petal shaped individually and stitched to the base, before crystals were added.
Although the £450 price tag means it’s one of the most expensive hats in the shop, there are pieces priced from just over £20.
“It’s not such a commitment for customers to buy an item of headwear such as a fascinator,” explains Sophie, who hails from France but moved to the UK five years ago and retrained in millinery after a career as a media analyst.
“But it still has to be exactly right. That is very important.”
Other standout hats include a pair of hot pink lips and a miniature black top hat with a striking gold trim.
But generally, says Sophie, the most popular designs are the ‘Crepe Suzette’ – a shallow base with an undulating, wave-like trim – and the ‘Amy Poppet’ – a neat 1940s-style calot hat topped with feathers or structured trims.
The personal touch is a key part of Sophie’s role at Herald & Heart, and services include measuring for a good fit, advice on style and colour, as well as altering.
However, she says that ‘men shop in a completely different way’.
“They know what style they want so they have a look through, or I find the size they need, then they are out of the door,” says Sophie. “Women will often bring their outfit with them, and will spend at least half an hour trying hats on.”
But occasion hats are just part of the story at Herald & Heart.
Children’s summer hats, Australian bush hats and even functional Tilley outdoor hats for walking the dog are all on offer.
Sophie believes the range of hats will make the shop a big hit as it sells “everything, for any age”.
A busy time looms, with the new autumn/winter hats about to launch, and millinery orders for winter weddings and race meetings on the cards.
“I’ve got the dream job,” adds Sophie. “I get to make and sell hats all day long, in a wonderful community.”
For more details, visit: www.heraldandheart.com or pop into Herald & Heart Hatters in 703 Fulham Road.