The Hat Magazine" March 2014.
Kathleen Mc Auliffe has built up a comprehensive hat business over the past 25 years that includes, retail wholesale and bespoke,and it well respected throughout Ireland as a designer,and maker on many levels.
"the Fact that my great aunt ,Ms Gertrude Legg, had been a milliner to the Queen,I'm sure helped to gain me the junior Sales position at The Hat Shop in Neal Street in1984- where i spent the next five years learning how to serve many type sof "hat" customers, whilst being offered the opportunity to attend a half-day millinery class at the London College of Fashion under Mme Marie O'Regan.
My next move was to art school, to Camberwell School of Art in London, to take a degree in Fine Art Painitng, but hats must be in my genes and I managed to pay my way through the course by making soft hats and selling them from my sunday market stall in Greenwich market. Following my degree I worked in "Browns" South Molten street as their "in House milliner' also setting up a second stall in Wimbledon market.
As business grew i began to order blocked shapes from Luton and trim them myself.
The move to Ireland was not exactly planned , although my father was Irish and I'd always had a longing to move here. It was during a summer holiday in 1993, windsurfing in Dingle, that i met Niall Mellon my husband and we decided to stay. The sewing machine, blocks and all my equipment moved to Ireland where we looked for somewhere to work. Initially someone gave me an old ruined house that became known locally as "the Hat Factory". News travels fast in Ireland and before long i had ladies, looking for a wedding hat as the wind howled through the broken windows. Irish women are very stylish and love dressing up and hats are a real must for weddings and the races. Women here look fantastic and very "finshed'.
As business increased Niall became very skilled at cutting and blocking, and so we made a collection and took a stand at showcase Ireland. It was a great sucess and orders we received from across Europe. we continued to show each january for eight years until we decided to test the waters and branch into retail.
The shop was opened twelve years ago in Dingle, a small town withan artistic and craft based population, and a great center for music. In the summer it is packed with many international vistors, many from Amercia,and in the winter only the local inhabitants tread the streets and business is extremely slow. When money was flowing in Ireland we stocked our own designs plus other high design labels such as Philip Treacy and Helen Kaminski. When times changed we offered more affordable designs such as Grevi from Florence,together with jewllery and a range of accessiores that included products from Orla Kiely, a much sought after Irish designer. The Kathleen Mc Auliffe customer could find soft hats in linen tweed and waxed velvet,blocked felts for daywear and smart elegant hats and headpieces for speacial occasions including individual designs and a price range from €30 to €350 there is something for everyone. In recent years we have shown at the craft fair in Dublin where we have regular customers who buy two or three hats each. After all these years we still love creating, and stillenjoy the trill of making,either large wholesale orders or a one off piece for that speacial occasion.
Hats have been a real journey for me!