Architecture graduate turned hat designer

Limerick’s Aisling Maher is making quite a name for herself in Irish millinery stakes. The 25 year old from Castleconnell is a graduate of architecture from UCD. Aisling graduated in the summer of 2009 and soon after, while planning a trip to the Galway Races, made her first headpiece for her own outfit.

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With work in architecture scarce in the new economy, Aisling was looking for other options to pursue and in Christmas that year she visited the local boutiques with some of her work to ask if they would be interested in it. She got a very positive response and this prompted her to make up a formal collection which went into Tippe Canoe, a boutique recognised around the country for championing young designers.

Since then Aisling has approached lots of boutiques across Ireland and is currently supplying 20 boutiques in total including stores in Dublin, Galway, Clare and Waterford. In January of this year, following an exhibition at the Showcase Ireland trade event in the RDS, she landed her first international order and is now also supplying a boutique in Germany. Aisling is going to London in August and hopes to be back again in September at London Fashion Week to exhibit at the trade shows that surround the international fashion week.

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“I’m hoping this will be my big break into the UK market” she told me this week as we braved the rain for the photoshoot.

Aisling has been featured in a lot of Irish media including TV3’s Xposé and Ireland AM, on the front cover of the Sunday Times business section, and in a recent issue of Image magazine where she was profiled as one of Ireland’s ten up and coming designers. Her most high profile client to date has been Catherine Zeta Jones who bought a headpiece at the JP McManus Pro Am in Adare which she wore to the gala dinner that evening. At the moment Aisling is doing a lot of hats/head-pieces for Ascot, the Galway Races, and Punchestown as well as weddings, mother-of-the-bride and bridal pieces.

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“My training as an architect does inform my work as a hat designer, my eye is trained to be a perfectionist, it definitely affects my approach to my work” Aisling explained. Inspired by Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones (“I like to interpret their desgns and put my own architectural twist into them using different materials to typical hat materials”), the young designer has also completed a month of intensive millinery courses at London College of Fashion, “these helped in technical skills and also looked at the history of hats, looking at how styles have evolved and changed, and looking at the future of the industry,” she added.

Aisling Maher headpieces priced 50-150euro and hats priced 100-250euro are available in Limerick from Tippe Canoe, Thomas Street.

By Olivia O’Sullivan

Exclusive Photoshoot
Photography: Conor O’Brien
Assisted by: Olivia O’Sullivan
Make-up: Alina Vologzhanina
Models: Michelle Meaney & Orla Duggan
Location: King John’s Castle, Limerick City
Shoot Produced by: Olivia O’Sullivan

This article first appeared in the Limerick Post 18th June 2011