In a similar vein to Martha Lynn, designer and milliner Deb Fanning’s career path was more passion project than crunching numbers to begin with. “It was about five years ago when I decided to take a lesson with Janette Pegley-Reed in Beads and Bling which used to be in Temple Bar. It was a really basic, one-day class and I just took to it straight away. That’s where it started really, I got the bug. I didn’t train immediately after that, rather I was just dying to start experimenting with materials and shapes, really excited to start making.”
Prior to her deep dive into the world of millinery, Deb had dabbled in hat making before but says that nothing solid ever came of it until now. “I had always been so intrigued by fashion in general, but particularly in millinery. It always seemed to me that there was something so special about the whole thing, the statement people made by wearing a hat or headpiece.”
Deb began crafting her own statements and gifting them to friends and family and displaying them at her leisure before she approached a friend, the owner of the former, but nonetheless fantastical Beaux Bows, an enigmatic gem which once nestled itself in the heart of George’s Arcade.
“That’s when things really took off and I began making more and really beginning to craft my label into what it is now. Stocking in Beaux Bows and receiving such positive reactions really gave me the confidence to take Deb Fanning to another level.”
“I began to wonder if there was anywhere else that I could I sell them and came across The Loft in The Powerscourt Centre, an amazing initiative ran by a group of Irish designers. The Loft allowed you to pay for your space to display and sell your designs. It was a great experience, both in terms of promoting my brand and also getting to know my customers better. Alongside my full-time job, I worked in The Loft every weekend. Getting to see how people interacted with my pieces was amazing and so helpful for me in developing my business further.”
Since her debut in the heart of Dublin city centre, Deb has continued to developed her business, stocking her creations in boutiques around the country, setting up on eCommerce store, and more recently, reducing her ‘day job’ down a part-time position, to nurture her brand further in her space in Mart Studios, Rathmines.
“I have to say, making the decision felt very natural too. A job came up that was part-time and suited, so I went for it and I’m glad I did, I’m really enjoying exploring this whole thing even further.”
This whole thing, or the art of millinery, in Deb’s case, is something that beautifully blends old and new by bringing together traditional craft and innovative finishings.
“I see my work as colourful and fun,” Deb begins, “I would also say young and funky, but honestly my hats attract all age groups from the mother-of-the-bride to a girl going to the races. What a headpiece does to an outfit or look is so unique it doesn’t bother with age limits. Wearing a hat lifts an outfit, it gives it life, makes the client look totally different, and feel totally different. It lifts it.”
Deb’s work does not limit itself to just stately affairs, with her some of her collections presenting pompom clad baseball caps and feathered pillbox bands.
“Honestly festivals are more my thing, I like to create something that works with, something really out there and extravagant.”
Her latest collaboration with festival fashion designer, Louise O’Mahony – or L.O.M Fashion, encapsulates the perfect mix of millinery, mesh, and madness making for the ultimate festival getup.
“I had been a longtime admirer of her stuff and noticed that she didn’t have any headpieces in her collections. So I said ‘feck it’ I’ll send her an email and see if she’d like to collaborate on something. We started chatting and after almost close to a year of sending samples back and forth we got to work. It was actually just an all around great experience, she was so easy to work with and everything ran so smoothly. She kind of gave me full reign, sending me over the fabrics she designed and letting me do my thing. There was trust there which is so important, and is something I think, looking at the resulting collection, really shows through.”
Trust may be evident in her collaborations, but it is pure talent and passion that shows through Deb Fanning’s solo work.
Words: Sinead O’Reilly
This column marks Sinead’s final one for Totally Dublin as fashion editor. We’d like to thank her for her invaluable insights into the fashion scene and her unwavering commitment to make us consider the downsides of fast fashion.