Designer Profiles: Ailish McElroy Millinery | A/W’17 Showcase

Here at the Galway Designer’s Network, we would like you all to get to know our designers a little better. This is the tenth installment in a series of blog posts relating to the designers who will be taking part in the upcoming A/W’17 Showcase in Tribeton on September 9th. Keep an eye out on the blog and on our social media channels over the next week and get to know our designers before the Big Day.

Ailish McElroy – Ailish McElroy Millinery

Aay Kay Photograhy

Who are you & what kind of designer are you?

I am Ailish McElroy and I am a Milliner based in Bodyke, Co. Clare.

Timothée Cognard Photography

What sparked your interest with millinery?

I was a Graphic Designer for many years so I always had an appreciation for colour, texture, shape and pattern in the composition of an image. I think what attracted me to Millinery was the chance to create away from the computer but to apply the same key elements in the creation of a finished headpiece using traditional hands on skills.

Timothée Cognard Photography

Are you self taught or did you study fashion design?

I have a Masters in Digital Media & Communications. At the beginning I was self taught until I reached a point where I wanted to progress my skills further. I then interned with Award Winning Milliner Margaret O’Connor in London. There is always so much to learn in Millinery and that fascinates me and challenges me in equal measure.

Mick Russell Photography

What made you take your talent more seriously and want make a career out of it?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision, I was just constantly lost in the creative process. It seemed to evolve into a career as people began to inquire if they could commission headpieces from me. Suddenly I had deadlines to keep. I started prioritizing my work load and before I knew it I had to make a choice between my job as a Graphic Designer or to change careers and become a Milliner. I decided to take the leap and go for it.

Mick Russell Photography

What is your aesthetic?

My pieces are feminine and beautifully embellished with a nod to vintage influences using luxurious materials, trims, feathers and beading.


What inspired this collection?

A skirt I bought in a shop in Lithuania inspired this collection. Something about the bold primary colours and pattern in the skirt sparked so many images in my mind every time I looked at it. I wanted to reflect that celebration of colour in this collection. I am also drawn to religious iconography and Gothic imagery in particular is a source of fascination for me. It represents romance, mystery and dark femininity.

Paul Cooley Photography

How has your work evolved since you began your own label?

My skills have evolved through experience, practice and constant learning. However, my designs evolve to accentuate the best attributes of my wearer and their outfit. Experience in working with clients has enabled me to create a process that streamlines my work from initial design concept to the completion of a finished headpiece while trying to create a harmony between new emerging trends and the traditional styles.

Paul Cooley Photography

What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company?

You need to believe in yourself and aim to be pro-active and professional not only in the skill of Millinery but with your Brand. Prioritising my workload clarifies my mind and allows the creative process to flow. It is also a constant challenge!

Paul Cooley Photography

Describe your creative process.

It begins with the outfit that makes its way into my workshop. I also take into account my client and what I think would suit them best. Then I begin to source my materials. Sometimes the nature of the materials will influence the design as they won’t always obey my demands! Then I begin to get lost in the process of creation, experimenting, accepting and rejecting ideas as I go along until I get the perfect symmetry.

Paul Cooley Photography

How do you get unstuck creatively?

The first port of call is a cup of coffee just for a breather. I might also try to work on something else for a while, maybe just do some basic tasks or tidy my workshop. If that doesn’t work I try to get out of my workshop and go for a long walk or a run. Enjoying the nature around me calms my mind and I love taking photographs of what I see. It helps me to start thinking and working creatively again. I also enjoy looking at paintings and photography which can really spark my imagination. Also, sometimes things occur to me just be studying the materials that I am using for a particular headpiece and this might dictate the direction I take with a design.

Paul Cooley Photography

What questions do you ask yourself before you begin any design project?

What will suit my client? What is the time frame? Do I have the materials required and if not, do I have time to order the materials?


How do you stay organized when trying to design and create while balancing family or other work related responsibilities?

It’s hard to find the right balance as I work from home and I have young children. My work is very unpredictable and my deadlines change constantly. My phone could ring at any moment with a customer looking for an appointment. I keep a detailed diary where I schedule appointments. I would be lost without my Big Black Book!


How do you feel about the current state of the fashion industry?

We need to sit up and pay attention to the massively untapped potential of the Irish Fashion Industry and how lucrative it could be to our economy. I would like to see something akin to the British Fashion Council being set up here which would solely serve the industry by seeking out new emerging talent and supporting them.  There is so much more we could be doing in this country to celebrate and support our Irish Designers and helping to pave the way to a strong Irish fashion industry. Why is it our best designers have to go abroad to develop their careers? Ireland has lost out on laying claim to the rise of some great talents and we continue to lose many of our best design graduates to emigration.


Where do you see your brand expanding to?

I will continue to expand on the foundation I have built over the last 3 years so that I can offer my customers more options and continue to provide excellent customer service. My dream would be to open a centre for designers in East Clare where we could work and sell our designs, however I think it’s important to build your brand one step at a time and to set realistic goals as expansion takes time, research and money.


What advice would you give to young designers?

Turning your passion into a career requires motivation. Be pro-active and take a step every day that gets you nearer your goal. There will be tough days where you may not be able to design. Instead use those days wisely to do some marketing, photograph your work or do some networking. Value your work and learn to recognise an opportunity when it arises.


Images 2-5|Rós Model Management|The Face Hairdressing|Colette Manning Lacey MUA

All other imagery via Ailish McElroy

Featured Photography|Aay Kay|Timothée Cognard|Paul Cooley|Mick Russell



Ailish will be taking part in the GDN A/W Showcase on September 9th in Tribeton. There will be 3 individual showcases throughout the day:

Jewellery Design at 2pm

Millinery at 4pm

Clothing Design at 6pm.

Tickets for individual shows are priced at €15, or grab yourself a bundle ticket for €35 and spend the day in Tribeton, where you can enjoy 20% off all food all day or shop the Pop Up Market featuring all of the designers collections.  Your ticket will entitle you to a glass of prosecco, a goodie bag specific to the show and a front row seat.  If you want to get your hands on a ticket, go online via or head directly to Tribeton. There will also be a limited amount of standing tickets available for each show, but you must register your interest via prior to September 9th.


The Galway Designers Network  is a group of talented designers looking to create exciting clothing and accessories to ensure you can support your local fashion industry and keep up to date with the latest fashion looks and we are looking to make our own mark in the fashion retail sector. Our current project the Galway Designers Studio House has been established by Ann Petrov of Cozy Handmade Designs and Gayle Poppers of Kizmet Clothing but they need your help to make their dream a reality. Follow the Galway Designers Studio House Facebook Page  to read all about the project and how you can take part.

The Galway Designers Network are always looking for new and exciting designers or anyone who feels they would love to be involved. Get in touch by commenting below, via Facebook @galwaydesignersnetwork, via Instagram @galway_designersnetwork or email