Melissa Joan Hart gives Westport peek at clothing line
Sabrina the Teenage Witch is all grown up, but the Westport actress who portrayed her continues to cast a magical spell on television audiences -- and now hopes to do the same in the fashion world.
Actress, author, director and producer Melissa Joan Hart, 39, presided Saturday over a trunk show at Groove, a children's apparel, toy and gift boutique in Westport to introduce shoppers to the boys' clothing line, King of Harts, that she and husband Mark Wilkerson developed. Hart and Wilkerson are the parents of three boys -- Mason, 9; Braydon, 7; and Tucker, 2.
The actress talked about her new collection with shoppers and posed for photos with fans of her popular TV shows, "Clarissa Explains it All," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and "Melissa & Joey," the latter of which was recently cancelled after a four-year run despite being the ABC Family Network's first sitcom to reach 100 episodes and its first comedy to win a People's Choice Award. "Melissa & Joey" returns for the second half of its fourth and final season at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 3. Ten new episodes will air throughout the summer.
"The writers did a beautiful job wrapping up everyone's story line," Hart said.
Hart is already working on the clothing line for next spring while meeting her obligations for her NutriSystem commercials and related QVC work, preparing to direct a movie this fall, and preparing to film a movie in Arkansas this summer, which will interrupt a long-standing family tradition. For the first time she will miss one of her family's favorite holidays, the Fourth of July in Lake Tahoe. But she asked permission from her children and they agreed the movie was a great opportunity, details of which she cannot divulge.
"Now we're changing all our summer plans ... It was difficult trying to make the decision to do this movie (but) I couldn't turn it down. I'm excited about it," Hart said.
The actress has a lot on her plate, but is used to juggling a lot at once. Hart has worked in the entertainment industry from a young age, doing her first television commercial at age 4, but, "I've always been interested in the business world and it seemed like the right time," said Hart, who was initially discouraged by some people. "It's a hard business to get into," she said.
As for the clothing line, Hart said she and Wilkerson noticed a gap in the marketplace "for cool, casual and functional boys clothing."
"The lack of options for them was inspiring ... Some stores don't even have any boys' clothing," Hart said. She also wanted her sons and other young boys to have options. Often, she said, boys' clothing features the same licensed characters. Their line has original graphics including a lobster wearing sunglasses, the Statue of Liberty against a background of fireworks, a shark and a surfer.
The first collection features 12 pieces for boys ages 2 to 12, and prices ranging from $32 to $70 but the fall line will be larger, Hart said.
Included in the current collection are camouflage and navy cargo shorts, tee-shirts and military-inspired outerwear in turquoise, navy blues, camouflage and her signature lime yellow. There is also animal humor, which will be included in all the collections. This first collection is inspired by the Long Island town of Montauk. Hart was born in Smithtown and raised in nearby Sayville, and subsequent collections will also be tied to specific communities. The fall's back-to-school line is linked to Lake Tahoe and will feature bears, snowboarders and mountain bikers.
The spring 2016 line will be influenced by Detroit, the Motor City, "and home of the root-beer float." She said that clothing will feature trendy colors, cars and tigers in reference to its Major League Baseball team.
"Every collection will be inspired by a city and 95 percent sourced in the U.S.," Hart said. The spring line was made in the USA and she has a Kentucky factory lined up for the fall collection.
Mothers of young boys were interested in Harts clothes, even those whose boys are too small to wear them yet. Judging by all the female fans who turned out Saturday, Hart may have to create a girls line, too.
"She's a great role model. The roles she played on TV are real and genuine and relatable," said Jennie Brown, 28, a Fairfield native who now lives in West Haven.
"She's also big with autism awareness. She's not afraid to speak up and say what she really feels," said Katelyn Ide, 18, of Orange, a fan of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch".
Hannah Evans, 8, said she watches reruns of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "so that's why I wanted to meet her."
Corrie Neckritz, owner of Groove, said she's glad to carry Hart's new fashion line because the actress supported her as well. In Hart's 2014 movie "The Santa Con," a mock-up of Groove was included in some of the film scenes.
King of Harts clothing by Melissa Joan Hart is available at specialty boutiques nationwide and through the website at www.kingofharts.com.