Hats off to Irish milliner Margaret O’Connor
She is the emerging young talent whose ornate headpiece was worn by Lady Gaga to the Isabella Blow exhibition in London a few weeks ago. In most instances, this would be quite a feat in itself. When you consider that the famed hat maker Philip Treacy accompanied Gaga on this occasion and she still chose to wear O’Connor’s piece over one of her companion’s creations, you begin to realise just quite how pivotal this moment was for the young designer.
Who exactly is Margaret O’Connor? Born and bred in Ireland, O’Connor earned her professional qualifications at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, studying sculpture and paint, before going on to specialise in textiles. With her degree behind her, she moved to Edinburgh to gain experience working with Yvette Jelfs, the woman responsible for dressing some of the most prominent, not to mention glamorous, heads at Royal Ascot year after year. From there, O’Connor moved herself to London spending a year interning for Noel Stewart, the noted milliner who has worked closely with fashion houses such as Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton. He counts Keira Knightly and Beth Ditto among his celebrity fans. It was after her time with Stewart that O’Connor really hit the millinery jackpot when she began working under acclaimed designer Philip Treacy. This was the veritable jewel in her crown, as her internship just happened to coincide with the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton – the wedding watched by over two billion people globally. No pressure then.
Since then, O’Connor has gone from strength to strength. Her designs were chosen by Fenwick to be sold in store – the upmarket department store is a favourite with the now Duchess of Cambridge. Keeping with the regal theme, albeit unintentionally, she is currently designing some coronet headpieces for a project with Tschan Andrews, a gifted young London fashion designer in collaboration with the talented photographer James Hazlett-Beard, who tends to lean towards a more dark and twisted photographic style.
Whilst it is her headwear that has catapulted her into the spotlight and earned her plenty of column inches, O’Connor has made it known that she does not wish to be pigeon-holed, saying: “I make jewellery, hats, underwear and accessories. I also do art projects. I wouldn’t like to be exclusively known as a milliner as I am versatile and I always want to keep growing creatively.”
O’Connor says she is not motivated or influenced by current trends. That is quite obvious when you look at her designs. Her pieces are creative and eclectic as well as being both contemporary and timeless. One to watch in 2014, she will, no doubt, mirror the popularity of her mentor Treacy. After all, what woman would not want to own a hat that is literally fit for a queen?
Visit Margaret O’Connor Millinery here.