Originally from Ireland, Noeleen has found her true calling since moving to Hong Kong and set up a fantastically successful millinery business. Since following her passion, Nono has achieved incredible recognition including the prestigious Longines Prize for Elegance and as a finalist for the Best Hat at the Jaguar Style Stakes, Dubai. Each piece Noeleen creates exudes style and elegance, transforming the look of any outfit and this featured black and white hat with delicate flowers is no exception. 

What do you love most about Millinery?
I love the creativity involved in millinery; starting on a hat from scratch and not knowing what direction it will take or how it will end up looking. This holds the appeal for me. I enjoy seeing the finished hat come to life on a real person as it makes all the effort and hard work very satisfying. When I finish a hat I always get a feeling that is hard to describe, a mixture of emotions.

How did you get into Millinery?
I began my early work life in the flower Industry in Ireland. In my early 20s, I moved to Holland and worked in the 3rd largest flower auction in the world. I loved being surrounded by real flowers and seeing so many beautiful colors and varieties. I have always loved fashion, particularly accessories. I was always creative and coming from a large Irish family I would improvise with clothes which I would remake and embellish and often create something new out of something old. I became a globe trotter and have lived in Australia, Hong Kong and America. All these countries have great horse racing cultures and I began experimenting and making my own hats for special racing events where I received many compliments on my work.

I was a stay-at-home mom after having twins in 2009. I knew I wanted to go back to work when my kids got older so I made a plan to set myself up for when that time came. I wanted to do something I truly loved and that something was millinery. In between caring for twins and being a Mom, every spare moment I had was spent on learning millinery skills. Now my twins are 7 and I'm a full time milliner with a business in Hong Kong. Learning millinery is a never ending process and a great investment in time and energy. I'm very grateful to be able to do what I love.

In a sentence tell us how you would describe your designs.
My mission statement is "Making All Women Glamorous". I think that sums it up.

What is your ideal customer?
A client who says "I'll give you creative license" and means it.

What inspires you?
Everyday genuine people inspire me as well as my children and my family. I love being in nature and I am inspired by architecture and interior design too. Living in HK I get the best of both worlds with the rural mountains and country parks as well as the incredible architecture and skyline of the city.

I am inspired by glamorous individuals such as Kate Middleton, and the late Princess Diana. Lastly, my clients who become friends.

If you could invite any milliner to tea who would it be?
If she were still alive today I would invite French Milliner, Lilly Dache. I am inspired by her story of how she moved to America from France and created a hat empire. Not an easy feat for a woman back in those days. My husband gave me an original signed copy of her book "Talking Through My Hats" dated 1946. I now have the dust cover framed with her picture and she hangs in a prominent place in my studio in Hong Kong watching over me as I work.

What is your favourite material to work with?
If I had to choose one it would be fabric.

What’s your best millinery tip?
Experiment!! You will learn so much and even come up with your own techniques through mistakes and exploring. Also, never give up on your idea and stay curious. I don't have a huge collection of hat blocks. I try to come up with different shapes out of what I have. When you are starting out you don't need to have an abundance of hat blocks. This is a time when you can be really creative thinking about shapes and what you can use and do to create them.

If you had to make your last hat what would it be?
That's a tough one. I'd probably make a hat or hats for my nearest and dearest to remember me by.

Famous words to live by.
The 1st sentence of Rick Warren’s book: A Purpose Driven Life.

“It’s not about you.”

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