In case there was any doubt, the current Somerset House exhibition featuring the wardrobe of the late Isabella Blow, has confirmed what we’ve all suspected. The hat is back. Maybe it was Kate Middleton and those pretty and appropriate Jane Taylor designs or maybe it was Gaga and her collection of bizarre yet fun creations including birds, telephones and that crystal covered lobster! Either way, the accessory du jour is to be worn on your head. And with a CV including a stint at Philip Treacy during the run-up to the Royal Wedding it will come as no surprise that Margaret O’Connor is being touted as the next big thing in Irish millinery. We caught up from the woman from County Clare to hear about her brand, her tips for emerging designers and those beautiful hats we’re lusting after this Christmas!
Wigsandgowns - What’s your fashion background – did you study millinery at University?
Margaret O’Connor - I studied in G.M.I.T Galway Cluin Mhuire Campus, where I studied sculpture and paint, then specialised in textiles where I created three dimension textile pieces. I moved to Edinburgh to gain experience in the millinery craft and worked with Yvette Jelfs who specialises in Unique Hat Couture particularly for race events. I then moved to London and spent a further year interning for Noel Stewart. I then worked for Philip Treacy, which was a huge honour as my internship coincided with the Royal Wedding of William and Catherine. After a year of interning I went to study millinery in Kensington and Chelsea College.
Wigsandgowns - What made you set up your own brand - did you consider working for another brand? Why?
Margaret O’Connor -The brand just happened naturally, I love working with new people so yes I can see myself doing more projects with other brands and labels. I worked with j l s a earlier this year. Check out my hats at http://designedbyjlsa.com/50-feet-up/margaret-o’connor
Wigsandgowns - These days, do Irish designers still have to come to London or one of the big fashion capitals in order to establish themselves?
Margaret O’Connor -Yes big fashion capitals are the way forward to get your name out there. Once your name is made it won’t matter if you move to Iceland as the ground work is done, and the demand for your work will be there. So I would advise all Irish mammies and daddies to push their creative children out of the nest.
Wigsandgowns - What or who inspires you?
Margaret O’Connor -My mother, father, sisters and brothers and the rest of the clan inspire me the most. My parents are farmers, and have worked very hard to raise all 8 kids. My sister and her family looked after me when I did a year of interning in London, these were the essential ingredients for my path into millinery. I get a lot of support from all of the O’Connors, the fashion industry is a difficult world. I went home last Christmas, my father picked me up from the airport he does not have a clue about fashion but he told me not to give up. To have that support no matter what I do is the most important thing I could ask for.
Music inspires me to create, without music I don’t think I could create. I’m constantly listening to new music as my ears need new fresh sounds there’s nothing better than being introduced to a few albums when starting a new collection or project. When I look at my work I know exactly what music I was listening to while working on them at that time.
Wigsandgowns - Where do you hope to see the brand going?
Margaret O’Connor -I feel in ten years I will have my own fashion house.
Wigsandgowns - Who in the public eye would you love to see wearing your designs and why?
Margaret O’Connor -I’ve been asked this question before so I should probably change it up a little! I would like to do some head wear for a band called Austra. They are a Canadian electronic music band from Toronto. The reason being is I just finished a collection called “draighin” meaning blackthorn it’s a dark collection and Austra’s sound connects with draighin.
Wigsandgowns - What’s been the biggest challenge?
Margaret O’Connor - To stay going. Financially and emotionally it’s a difficult industry to break into. But I’m not going to stop until my hats are on the catwalk. If you want it bad enough it will happen.
Wigsandgowns - Where would you like to see the brand in five years time? Would you expand into other accessories or does your heart lie with millinery?
Margaret O’Connor -Well I’ve a degree in textiles so I definitely will branch out into other things. I’m currently doing some accessories and underwear for some collaborate projects so yes anything is possible. I feel in five years ill be doing millinery, textiles and accessories.
Wigsandgowns - Any tips for emerging designers?
Don’t own a TV, stop looking at magazines, don’t copy other trends or waste your time predicting the new treads. Create work from your own life experiences and take from yourself what you need creatively rather than looking over your shoulder. Your work will naturally slot into the trends.
Wigsandgowns - How can our readers buy one of your designs?
Margaret O’Connor -The readers can contact me directly my web site is www.Margaretoconnormillinery.com or buy directly from MOCMILLINERY on etsy.
Images via http://www.margaretoconnormillinery.com