HERSE IN 1868 "TRADE LACES AND WHITE GOODS"
The HERSE story begins in 1868, when two men from Poznan, Boguslaw Herse Maciej (1839-1880) and Wladyslaw Jerzykiewicz, opened a store in Warsaw’s Senatorska, near the Old Town. Above the entrance to the store hung a sign which read "Trade, Commodities and White Lace". Jerzykiewicz quickly lost enthusiasm for the business and withdrew, allowing Boguslaw’s brother - Adam Szczepan Herse (1850-1915) - to take his place.
Adam Szczepan Herse, my grandfather took the company in a new direction, changing its name to “Factory of News”. A third brother - Robert Ferdynand Herse (1845-1905) - joined the company soon after.
HERSE IN 1899 "BOGUSLAW HERSE FASHION HOUSE"
“The company of Boguslaw Herse in Warsaw is pleased to announce that from this spring it has moved its warehouse and workshop from Number 10 Senatorska to his house at Number 150 Marszałkowska. This magnificent four-storey building in style of Louis XVI, designed by architect Jozef Huss, has three facades.” Printed on the first page of its 1899 catalogue, this is how HERSE notified its customers of its change of address.
The diaries of Krystyna Machlejd, the mother-in-law of my grandfather Adam Szczepan Herse’s son Jan, were published under the title ‘The Saga Ulrichowsko-Machlejdowska’. They talk of a “great, great multi-story building, with towers on street corners” and “a hallway entrance and marble staircase, covered with a patterned carpet and elevator leading to other private units.” The description of the fashion house continued: “the building went on along the street Kredytowa and pl. Dabrowski, to a gate and a second staircase.” Machlejd was particularly impressed with the large display windows which wrapped “around the entire house.”
ADAM SZCZEPAN HERSE
Adam Szczepan Herse spent 34 years of his life building the reputation of Boguslaw Herse Fashion House - first as co-owner, and then after the tragic death of his brother Boguslaw Maciej in 1880, as president. As well as a keen business sense, he possessed no little artistic talent and the early direction of the company can be traced back to his inspiration.
Adam introduced new levels of quality control, making clothes according to the design of the the most respected Parisian designers and using only the best materials. It was upon this foundation that the company’s strong reputation was built. He was known for his indomitable character and iron will. Following the death of Boguslaw, the company, then still based on Senatorska, found itself in a precarious position. Despite the company being deeply in debt and on the brink of bankruptcy, Adam refused to give up. Instead he took matters into his own hands and began to pay off the company debts. The whole HERSE family lived and worked together to get the company back on its feet. On the mezzanine level of the family home lived widow of Bogusław, Filipina de domo Kotek, with her two children: Marynia and Boguslaw Wladyslaw. While Boguslaw Junior went to school, the rest of the family worked. Adam designed and sewed while Filipina and Marynia performed light finishing work. The entire family’s determination and talent, combined with the kindness of Warsaw society, meant that after a few years, Adam was able to pay off the company’s debts and the fashion house slowly began to flourish again.
In 1899 the company relocated its headquarters to the newly established building on Marszalkowska 150. Adam wanted to share his success. He was a great philanthropist and throughout his life gave a significant amount of money charity. "The best years in every respect were the years under the ‘reign’ of the late Adam Herse. He was generous, fair, insightful towards the needs of his staff, who appreciated and adored their boss." "Saga Ulrichowsko-Machlejdowskiej" by Krystyna Machlejd.
BOGUSŁAW WŁADYSŁAW HERSE
Boguslaw Wladyslaw Herse (1872 - 1943) was the son of Maciej Boguslaw Herse, founder of the Boguslaw Herse Fashion House. After completing his studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales in Paris, he began working for the family business. Shortly before the death of his uncle Adam Szczepan in 1915, he succeeded him as President of the house. Boguslaw was a member of the Board of Polish Bank, president of the Association of Polish Merchants, Vice-President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Warsaw and vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
In 1930 he was awarded the French Legion of Honour. An experienced climber and walker, he would spend summer with his family in the beautiful Zakopane region of Poland, where he enjoyed walking with famous mountaineer Klimek Bachleda. He owned a villa on the slopes of Gubałówka and hosted, among others, Kazimierz Tetmajer, Wladyslaw Orkan and Jan Kasprowicz. In 1909 he was made a member of the building committee for the construction of a shelter in honour of composer Mieczyslaw Karlowicz.
INSIDE THE BOGUSŁAW HERSE FASHION HOUSE‘'A wonderful, broad staircase - with railings made of majolica apple-green pillars and the stairs themselves covered with a carpet so fluffy that one’s legs were lost - forked and lead to the first floor, where there were pillars supporting a great space. There were no walls at all, but carpets, vases and antique chests of drawers, old clocks and varnished tables on which were scattered trendy tulle and silk" "Saga Ulrichowsko-Machlejdowskiej" by Krystyna Machlejd.
The specialty of the HERSE fashion house was making dresses and coats according to the patterns of Parisian fashion houses such as Worth, Beer, Lafferiere, Doucet, Callot Soeurs, Paquin, Lebouvier, Drecoll, Amy Linker and Francis.
"Ceremonial stairs or a convenient elevator, facilitate getting to the top. We are in the centre of the company, in its atelier, where orders are taken, each type of outfit is devised, its fashion is thought through, the materials are selected, detailed debates are taking place with clientele. This is a place where the latest Parisian models are being presented and new styles are being compiled and combined. The left side houses the workshop, coats and furs - while the right is home to lace, ribbons, fans, gloves, umbrellas, belts, all sorts of trinkets and complementary women's toiletries. In the fashion house there were also other sections: hats, veils, underwear and corsets, men's, children's, carpets, packaging and shipping.” "Saga Ulrich-Machlejda" by Krystyna Machlejd.
THE LETTER TO THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS IN FRANCE: “WARSAW HAS HERSE FASHION HOUSE!”
The French Ambassador to Poland between 1926 and 1935 was Jules Laroche. In one of her official speeches, Laroche’s wife declared that "in Warsaw, there is nowhere to get dressed and you need to be dressed well to go to Paris".
Boguslaw Herse’s response was instant. He wrote to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, saying that "Warsaw is a beautiful and modern city and for those who want to dress well, there is Boguslaw Herse Fashion House". Bogusław Herse first received an official apology, and a little later the French Légion d'Honneur.
Mrs Laroche, the Ambassador’s wife, became a faithful attendee of HERSE fashion shows and a loyal customer.
THE HERSE PAVILION
The HERSE Pavilion was the brainchild of architect Bohdan Pniewski, who designed the building for General National Exhibition in Poznań in 1929.
The Pavilion was built to mark the 10th anniversary of Polish independence. Bogusław Herse was a member of the Main Council of General National Exhibition, and the company has received the Great Gold Medal of GNE.
HERSE FASHION HOUSE - A CELEBRITY FAVOURITE
"We would like to retain and continue to serve our refined clientele, so that in each individual case they are dressed up according to their own taste and fashion.” HERSE, 1899
"On the corner of the entrance door of the warehouse, was the smiling, affable, bowing porter Szymon. Szymon had been in his job many years and must have welcomed refined women time and time again. I’m sure most of the ladies spent half their lives in HERSE. It was not uncommon to see a chain of cars and private carriages - like in front of the Embassy or the Ministry - which were waiting for hours for fashionable ladies, doing themselves up as a ‘goddesses’ according to the latest fashion." "The saga of Ulrich-Machlejd” by Krystyna Machlejd.
Regular customers at HERSE included Marja Mościcka - the wife of the President of the Polish Republic, Countess Beata Branicka from Wilanów, Countess Maria Potocka, Hank Ordonówna - singer, dancer, actress, Augustowa Zaleska, wife of the President of the Commercial Bank, later on a President of the Republic of Poland placed in Lodon, Zofia Batycka - Miss Polonia 1930.
HIS EXCELLENCY, THE SHOP ASSISTANT
His Excellency, The Shop Assistant, was a 1934 film starring Eugene Bodo and Mieczyslawa Ćwiklińska. Many of the scenes were shot in HERSE Fashion House. The film tells the story of charming salesman Jurek, who falls in love with the daughter of an upper-class couple.
THE ORIGINS OF THE HERSE FAMILY
The Herse family originates in France, where in the 13th century its members were lawyers at the courts of princes. The ancestors of today's Herse family were Huguenots and probably lived in the north of the country. During the religious persecution between 1562 and 1685, the family fled France and took refuge in one of the German principalities. Family traces are found in the 18th century in the Grand Duchy of Poznan, which then was part of Prussia. Gotfried Leberecht Herse (1774 - 1828) was married to Natalia Klossin, and after her death her sister Rosina. He owned a bakery in Krotoszyn, and later founded the mechanical bakery in Poznan. His son Ernest William Herse (1802 - 1881) was born in Steszow and never showed an interest in pursuing a career as a baker. Instead he graduated in Halle, practicing agricultural studies. He bought an estate at Gnuszyn near Pniewy in Pila county and later a property at Radłowo near Wrzesnia. It was there that he became the first man in the country to cultivate sugar beet, meeting a demand for sugar in the first half of the 19th century caused by a blockade stopping imports into the country. Ernest was also the administrator and lifelong friend of Count Seweryn Mielżyński near Radłów as well as being a gifted artist. Ernest considered himself a Pole and joined his fried Count Seweryn in the November Uprising of 1830. He married Augustyna Werner, with whom he had nine children. Their eldest son, Jaroslaw, graduated from the Faculty of Law in Poznan, was a notary and vice-mayor of Poznan. With the money obtained from the sale of assets in Radłowo, Ernest bought a carriage and pair of horses, the rest being allocated to his children. In 1868 three of those children - Boguslaw Maciej, Adam Szczepan and Robert Ferdynand - founded the company that gave rise to the HERSE Fashion House.