Preakness could also be a gathering centered round horse racing, however for Baltimore native Lacey Johansson, who has been attending festivities for many years, the hats steal the present.
“I simply preferred the hats, and it’s a big day for Baltimore, and it’s the perfect day to be in Baltimore,” stated Johansson, 42, who attended the pre-Preakness Black-Eyed Susan occasion as a toddler and grew up going to the horse races practically yearly. “It’s simply a whole lot of enjoyable to dress up and take the time to consider what you’re going to put on.”
What to don is vital, as a result of Preakness, set for Could 21, isn’t just about being trendy, however standing out.
“I wish to have a hat that nobody else has,” Johansson stated. “I prefer to be totally different and (Preakness is) form of the one place that I’m very trend ahead. I prefer to make an announcement.”
Social media influencer and Baltimore native Morgan Moses-Allen, who has attended Preakness and in addition famous the trendsetters, stated the occasion prioritizes the head-turning hat.
“There’s something particular to Baltimore about having a sure sort of hat, one thing that stands out, one thing that’s totally different,” Moses-Allen, 35, stated. “Each time I might go or somebody would invite me, it was at all times a query about your hat, like, ‘What sort of hat are you sporting?’”
And that’s the place Ashley Clark involves the rescue. Clark is the founder, designer and CEO of Soigné Luxurious Equipment, headquartered in Fells Level.
“A number of the time I make hats that I can’t discover on the market,” the 34-year-old entrepreneur stated. “I at all times say I design for the extraordinary, not the bizarre. There aren’t any plain bagels in my shopper roster.”
Soigné started as a vivid dream that felt so actual it led Clark to drop out of legislation college. She traveled to France to check the craft, took millinery programs from Hat Academy, and commenced making hats for pals round 2016.
In 2018, Clark formally launched Soigné and commenced the enterprise’ transformation from a dream to an award-winning model that has loyal shoppers and a popularity for jaw-dropping designs.
“I’ve been fortunate my designs have received greatest hat in any respect three races (Triple Crown) and I made historical past in 2019, being the primary ever small business-owned, small designer, to win greatest hat.”
For final yr’s Preakness she created a hat for Moses-Allen that featured remote-controlled feather butterflies. The design not solely received, however made headlines.
“Morgan’s hat was on the duvet of USA At present,” Clark stated, describing how she hand-painted feathers to craft the hat and butterflies. “They fluttered on her head.”
The pandemic pressured Clark to discover different equipment corresponding to headbands, earmuffs, jewellery and extra.
“Hats are the love of my life, actually,” she stated. “The entire different merchandise happened due to COVID. I didn’t wish to fireplace my employees and we had a bunch of cloth and stuff mendacity round, and we simply pivoted. It was like: ‘how will you look good from the neck up in pajamas on a Zoom name throughout COVID?’”
Clark opened a brick and mortar in Boston in November 2020, however she shortly “outgrew” that location. She beforehand lived in Baltimore for 9 years, the place she participated in pageants, labored as an NFL cheerleader and studied in graduate college. When it was time to develop, the CEO knew the world could be an inexpensive choice to develop her enterprise.
“Baltimore performs such an enormous function on this journey due to the affordability after which there’s horse racing and that area of interest market,” Clark stated. “However folks don’t notice that Baltimore has a kaleidoscope of trend that additionally conjures up me every day.”
A protracted-standing Baltimore battle of native aesthetic additionally influences Clark’s designs.
“There’s this preppy facet of Baltimore, the place there’s ladies within the county, and it’s very Brooks Brothers, and J. Crew,” she stated. “Then you’ve this sensational road trend that has a lot perspective and aptitude.”
“And if you mix these two issues collectively, you get this stunning trend area of interest that’s the metropolis. And to me, it offers me life and propels me ahead,” the designer stated.
After gutting the constructing, Clark opened her Fells Level location on Thames Road final August.
“I used to be fortunate as a result of the situation that I’m in was a retail retailer, so it had good bones,” she stated.
These bones have stretched out to a physique of labor that features an annual assortment of 55 hats plus particular person consultations, lifetime shopper hat blocks (molds of shoppers’ head styles and sizes) and customized creations. Soigne’s 2022 hat assortment is impressed by billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk not too long ago exploring area, and the repeatedly trending cryptocurrency conversations.
“The brand new assortment known as Sexual Area Odyssey — it’s the derby on the moon. So consider a whole lot of lace, a whole lot of leather-based, a whole lot of fake flowers, a whole lot of taxidermy,” Clark stated. “We’ve got elements that transfer, we now have area helmets, we now have airplanes the place the cockpit lights up on a hat that’s wrapped on this luxurious and boss leather-based. It’s form of wild.”
Items from her new assortment and customized creations shall be on full show on the Preakness.
“Morgan’s hat this yr is three-feet extensive,” Clark stated, spilling among the tea about Moses-Allen’s vivid pink Preakness look forward of Saturday’s huge occasion.
“I’m going to have to show to stroll within the doorways,” Moses-Allen laughed. “It’s additionally not going to be your conventional hat in your head. It’s extra like a construction.”
It is the official cocktail of the Triple Crown’s “center jewel.”
Clark can also be designing Johansson’s 2022 Preakness look, crafting the hat round a jungle theme.
“It’s going to be a kind of the place it’s over one eye, form of tilted down with black and white and pink colours all through,” stated Johansson, who has been shopping for Clark’s customized creations since 2018.
The designer additionally creates complimentary matching equipment along with her hat designs. For instance, she is going to provide concepts for a associate’s look corresponding to a coordinating bow tie, lapel pin and handkerchief, all protecting to the identical theme.
Johansson stated Clark offers “the entire 9 yards,” however that’s not the one motive Soigné hats are good for Preakness.
“It’s an extended day, so I feel a very powerful half is that it matches,” stated Johansson. “It doesn’t transfer, it stays in your head, you don’t have to fret about it blowing away.”