Irish Women in Business - Laura Kinsella of Laura Kinsella Millinery
This summer saw us lusting over stunning headpieces thanks to race season and the many weddings and events that have taken place over the last couple of months.
One milliner that caught our eye is Laura Kinsella of Laura Kinsella Millinery. Her latest collection, entitled Manifold, has some unique headpieces made of waxed cotton, wire, beads, abaca ,silk and sinamay.
Laura is fast becoming one to watch on the Irish style scene and was crowned IMAGE Breakthrough Designer of the Year at Kerry Fashion Week earlier this year.
We caught up with her to find out how she started off in millinery, where she gets inspiration from and how she envisages her future.
What's your background and how did you become involved in millinery?
My background is in womenswear design. I graduated with an Honours degree in Fashion Design from Limerick School of Art and Design. After this, I worked with womenswear designers in Mexico and Melbourne.
I started millinery in 2010 when I came home from travelling and there weren't any jobs. I came back thinking that I would have to move to London but then an apprenticeship with a knitwear company and a milliner came up at the same time.
I’ve always liked hats so I took the millinery apprenticeship. I trained as an apprentice for nine months then worked briefly with a few other milliners. I then went to intern in London with Philip Treacy.
In 2012, I started working with beads and bling as a freelance milliner and in 2013 I branched out and started my own business with my first range of hats.
What is your inspiration?
Coming from a fashion background, I am used to designing from inspiration for two seasons every year, but my pieces vary dramatically from season to season.
I have a look at trend reports as I feel that many clients will be buying outfits from current trend colours/styles so it is important that I know what will go with them.
Once I let my mind wander, I get inspiration from anywhere though. Last spring/summer I was inspired by Japanese horror films and this spring/summer was engineering, mainly bridges so my inspiration changes all the time.
Laura's designs are simply stunning
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I suppose it happened almost organically. I had been teaching and making hats for beads and bling so as a freelancer, I was technically working for myself anyway. It isn’t for everyone, but for many in the fashion industry creating your own label and starting your own business is the end goal.
You can be as creative as you like and it is your own work and ideas. Also, truth be told I prefer working for myself.
Was it difficult starting out and what challenges did you meet along the way?
At the beginning, it was hugely difficult and there were times I wanted to give up. However, if you persevere it all works out in the end. The biggest challenge I personally encountered was funding. There is very little funding at the moment or when there is, it goes into science and technology. Starting a business without any financial aid whatsoever puts you at a disadvantage from the start.
I still meet challenges weekly only they aren’t as big as the ones I used to meet. Things like sourcing the right suppliers and the perfect studio space. I would also say one massive challenge is not having a mentor, which I think is hugely important when starting out.
Where do you sell your product from?
At the moment, my sales are organised through private consultations with me. There are sales from online orders, and of course personal meetings with me or through telephone and email conversations. As most of my orders are bespoke designs, there usually has to be a personal element with each order. I also hope to gain a new stockist by the end of the year.
Tell us your top tips for buying a hat, particularly if it's someone who isn't used to wearing hats.
The biggest thing I would say is comfort. Regardless of shape or size, you have to be really comfortable in it. If you aren’t comfortable in it, it will show on the day. I think it's best to try on a lot of styles to see what you feel comfortable in and what suits you
Once you find one style you like you automatically feel more comfortable and wearing a hat will look effortless.
The milliner's latest collection is entitled Manifold
What's the future of the business?
Hopefully expansion, I aim to broaden the millinery range to include other accessories and a more ready to wear product. I also want to gain more stockists and (fingers crossed) branch into markets outside of Ireland.