Elaine Keogh is an award winning Milliner and recently won The millinery designer of the year award at the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards. Her pieces are beautiful and so stylish. She is one of my favourite milliners because as much as I love avant garde designs I also love wearable pieces. I was delighted when she agreed to the interview as I always love to learn about the inspirations behind people’s beautiful creations.
What is your first memory of fashion/style that really drew your attention?
Those huge platform shoes that Naoimi Campbell fell over in, I think they were Vivienne Westwood.
What made you decide to get into millinery?
I went to see Philip Treacys exhibition when I was in school. It completely blew me away.
It must have been quite the experience to work with Rose Cory, what is the most important thing that you learned from her?
I trained under Rose Cory, she is such a lovely lady. With Rose the most important thing in millinery is a finished hat should never look “handled”. This is the hardest thing to master in millinery.
What are your favourite fabrics/materials to work with?
I work with silk mainly. I source all fabric from Europe. For winter I use Angora rabbit fur, my supplier sheer the rabbits, the rabbits are not hurt at all, this is really important to me. H&M and other companies have been in big trouble over using plucked rabbit hairs in their collections. This is absolutely disgusting to me. I’m completely against animal cruelty.
I think with millinery there are so many different styles / looks that can be created from the dramatic, to the chic, to the flamboyant to the stylish. Do you have a favourite type of hat that you enjoy designing?
I make classic hats, they are timeless. I don’t really follow trends. The fabrics are such high quality that they will last a lifetime. I hope my customers today will take out my hats to wear again in 20 years time.
Where does the inspiration for your beautiful pieces come from?
SS16 was inspired by the boglands in Offaly and the Mill. But I’m often inspired by a book, a place, a person in my life or an experience.
What has been your most memorable/favourite piece to make to date?
A zebra sequin visor. I love monochrome
I have seen a sneak peak of your AW’16 Campaign on your Facebook page, can you please tell us a little more about it?
AW16 is all about structure and empowering women. Before I moved home I tried out Aura Soma in London. AW 16 is completely about everything I learned about myself while using Aura Soma.
I think that awards like the Fashion Innovation Awards are so important for up and coming designers as well as established designers and this year you are also nominated for an award. What would winning this mean to you?
The awards are an amazing platform for Irish designers. The organisers are so encouraging, I have loved being a part of it from day 1.
I have always said being nominated was such a privilege but to win – that was a dream come true.
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps and become a milliner- would you have any tips for someone looking to enter the craft?
Start wearing thimbles on every finger now, even while sleeping – you’re going to need them!
Do you think that people should go to college before they think about ‘being a designer’?
I think a business degree should be a basic education. Everybody needs business.
I am aware that you are launching a new website, how important do you think it is to have a presence online? Do you think it is important as a designer to keep up with social media?
I have put everything into this new website for the past 10months. I believe you can run a successful online business from anywhere in the world (even Belmont, Co. Offaly) if you have a professional online site.
Social media is very important. Everybody is online. Something like 86% of all sales are influenced by online. Also how lucky are we to actually be able to show our products to the world so easily. This couldn’t even be done 10 years ago.
What are your aspirations for your designs in the future?
Next collection is SS17, I already have so many ideas. I’ve always wanted to make a collection based on a trip to South Africa years ago, it has stayed in the back of my head…may be some day!
A big thank you to Elaine for being interviewed and also a massive congratulations on her recent win. I would advise you to take a look at her recently launched website as it is really good and you can view more of her collections there as well. You can also follow her on social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.