Preakness may be a horse race -centered gathering, but for Baltimore native Lacey Johansson, who has attended festivals for decades, hats have stolen the show.
“I just love the hats, and it’s a special day for Baltimore, and it’s the best day ever in Baltimore,” said Johansson, 42, who attended the pre-Preakness Black-Eyed Susan event as a child and growing up to go to the horse races almost every year. “It’s so much fun to change and take the time to think about what you’re going to wear.”
What needs to be given is the key, because Preakness, set for May 21, is not just about fashion, but standing.
“I want to have a hat that no one else has,” Johansson said. “I like to be different and [Preakness is] kind of a place I’m very trendy. I like to make a statement. ”
Social media influencer and Baltimore native Morgan Moses-Allen, who attended Preakness and also noticed trendsetters, said the event was primarily a head-turning hat.
“There’s something specific in Baltimore about having a certain kind of hat, something unique, something different,” said Moses-Allen, 35. “Every time I go or someone invites me , it’s always a question about your hat, like, ‘What kind of hat are you wearing?’ “
And there Ashley Clark helped. Clark is the founder, designer and CEO of Soigné Luxury Accessories, located in Fells Point.
“Most of the time I make hats that I don’t know are there,” said the 34-year-old businessman. “I always say I design for the unique, not the ordinary. There are no simple bagels on my client’s list.”
Soigné began as a vivid dream that felt real that led Clark to drop out of law school. She traveled to France to study craft, took millinery courses from Hat Academy, and started making hats for friends in 2016.
In 2018, Clark officially launched Soigné and started transforming the business from a dream to a brand with loyal clients and a reputation for jaw-dropping designs.
For Preakness last year he made a hat for Moses-Allen featuring feathered butterflies on the remote control.. Design became headlines.
“Morgan’s hat is on the cover of USA Today,” Clark said, describing how he hand -painted the feathers to make the hat and butterflies. “They flew over his head.”
The pandemic forced Clark to check out other accessories such as headbands, earmuffs, jewelry and more.
“Hats are the love of my life, really,” he said. “All the other products happen because of COVID. I don’t want to lay off my staff and we have a bunch of clothes and stuff lying around, and we’re just pivoting. It’s like: ‘how are you? good look from neck to pajama in a Zoom call during COVID? ‘ ”
Clark opened a brick -and -mortar facility in Boston in November 2020, but he quickly “surpassed” that location. She previously lived in Baltimore for nine years, where she participated in pageants, worked as an NFL cheerleader and attended graduate school. When it was time to expand, the CEO knew the area could be a cheap option to grow his business.
“Baltimore has a big role to play in this journey because of affordability and then there’s horse racing and that market,” Clark said. “But people don’t realize that Baltimore has a kaleidoscope of fashion that also inspires me every day.”
A long -standing battle in Baltimore over the local aesthetic also influenced Clark’s designs.
“There’s this preppy aspect to Baltimore, where there are women in the county, and it’s very much Brooks Brothers, and J. Crew,” she said. “Then you have this weird street fashion with a lot of character and skill.”
“And when you combine the two things, you get this beautiful fashion niche that is the town. And for me, it gives me life and pushes me forward,” the designer said.
Following the demolition of the building, Clark opened his location at Fells Point on Thames Street in August.
“I’m lucky because the location I used to live in was a retail store, so its bones are good,” he said.
Those bones stretched into a set of work that included an annual collection of 55 hats and individual consultations, lifetime hat blocks to the client (molds in shapes and sizes. heads of clients) and custom creatures. Soigne’s 2022 hat collection is inspired by billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk who have recently explored space, and the ever-changing cryptocurrency conversations.
“The new collection is called Sexual Space Odyssey – it’s the derby of the moon. So think lots of lace, lots of leather, lots of fake flowers, lots of taxidermy,” Clark said. “We have parts to work with, we have space helmets, we have planes where the cockpit shines with a hat wrapped in this beautiful and boss leather. It looks wild. ”
Pieces from his new collection and custom creations will be displayed entirely in Preakness.
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“Morgan’s hat this year is three feet wide,” said Clark, who poured some tea about Moses-Allen’s bright pink Preakness look ahead of Saturday’s big event.
“I have to turn around to walk through the doors,” Moses-Allen laughed. “It’s also not your traditional hat on your head. It’s like a structure.”
Clark also designed Johansson’s 2022 Preakness look, creating the hat with a forest theme.
“It’s going to be one of those where it’s an eye, a kind of tilted to black and white and red colors throughout,” said Johansson, who has been shopping at Clark’s customs since 2018.
The designer also makes complimentary matching accessories to her hat designs. For example, she would offer ideas for a partner’s look such as a coordinating bow tie, lapel pin and handkerchief, all continuing the same theme.
Johansson said Clark gave “a full nine yards,” but that’s not the only reason the Soigné hats are perfect for Preakness.
“It’s been a long day, so I think the most important part is that it fits,” Johansson said. “It won’t work, it’ll stay in your head. You don’t have to worry about blowing it up.”