Carrigaline woman is set for London Hat Week

A hat by Carrigaline milliner Elaine O’Sullivan is one of 200 chosen from 38 countries to feature at the London Hat Week. Here she talks about re-igniting her creative passion
Carrigaline woman is set for London Hat Week
Elaine O'Sullivan, milliner based in Carrigaline.

TELL us about yourself;

My name is Elaine O’ Sullivan. I am a milliner based in Cork. I wear many hats on a daily basis pardon the pun! I am a wife, a mother of three, and a social worker. I have always had a passion for style and fashion, and I believe that a hat or headpiece is the ultimate style statement! Any excuse, I’d wear a headpiece, but would end up altering ones I got as they never reflected my personality and style.

I started doing night classes in Millinery at CSN College of Further Education in 2016. This fuelled my passion for millinery and I was hooked! I started designing and creating, and haven’t stopped!

I have done many millinery workshops with milliners all over Ireland. I also did Millinery training last April in London with British couture Milliner, Justine Bradley Hill during London Hat Week. Some of Justine’s pieces have been worn by members of the royal family.

Elaine O'Sullivan's design.
Elaine O'Sullivan's design.

I am also a member of an online Millinery and business academy run by an award-winning Millinery designer in London. I absolutely adore Millinery and am passionate about continually learning new skills, styles and techniques.

In 2018, I began a business training programme through the WREN (Women’s Entrepreneurial Development Project) and SECAD In Midleton. I graduated last October with a certificate in entrepreneurial development from Cork Institute of Technology. The support and encouragement I received, combined with my experience, gave me the confidence to turn my hobby into a business ... and Panama & Pearl Millinery was born!

Where were you born?

Ardagh, in County Limerick.

Where do you live?



Hubbie Brian, plus three kids, Ava, Olan and Ethan.

Elaine O'Sullivan whose design will showcase at London Hat Week.
Elaine O'Sullivan whose design will showcase at London Hat Week.

Best friend?

Couldn’t just pick one! I’m very lucky in the friends department... so I’ll say the husband!

Earliest childhood memory?

Having the mumps on my fifth birthday and looking like a chipmunk in the photos!

Person you most admire?

My dad for being the most humble, kind and honourable man, and the best dad. My mam for her devotion to her family, for always having the patience to listen to me and my ideas!

Person who most irritates you?

People who skip queues, and people who park in disabled spaces when they have no reason to!

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance and why?

I don’t really do politics but if I had to, I’d pick Carrigaline man, Michael McGrath.

Another one of Elaine's designs.
Another one of Elaine's designs.

Where was your most memorable holiday?

After we finished college, my husband (then boyfriend!) and I went travelling the world for a few months. The absolute highlight for me was Fiji. We stayed on a few of the islands, in little huts on the beach. A bell would ring to tell you when it was mealtime and everyone on the island would eat together. There was a sing song every night on the beach, followed by a disco in another hut where the islanders would take turns spinning the disco ball hanging off the ceiling! I cried leaving Fiji, I think perhaps because I guessed I might never see it again!

Favourite TV programme?

At the moment, Love Island #obsessed. I also love The Great British Bake Off and Grey’s Anatomy.

Favourite radio show?

I don’t listen to the radio.

Elaine O'Sullivan. Picture: Darragh Kane
Elaine O'Sullivan. Picture: Darragh Kane

Your signature dish if cooking?

I love to bake when I get the chance, which isn’t too often! I’ve a very sweet tooth! My signature dinner would have to be a chicken stir fry of some sort.

Favourite restaurant?

Oak & Apple wine & tapas bar in Adare, in Limerick... ticks all the boxes for me!

Last book you read?

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — couldn’t put it down!

Best book you read?

As above.

Last album/CD/download you bought?

Save Your Soul by Hermitage Green.

One of Elaine O'Sullivan's creations
One of Elaine O'Sullivan's creations

Favourite song?

Kerosene Light by Hermitage Green — absolutely love this song! I’m committed to learning every single word of it!

One person you would like to see in concert?

Westlife — have seen them a few times already and am looking forward to seeing them in Pairc Ui Caoimh in August.

Do you have a pet?


A hat by Elaine O'Sullivan.
A hat by Elaine O'Sullivan.

Morning person or night owl?

Oh, night owl for defo! I don’t do mornings but every night, I have the best intentions to go to bed early. Ill get up and complain of being tired and swear I’ll go to bed early and it never happens! Every day it’s the same story!

Your proudest moment?

Besides having my three kids, it would have to be starting my millinery business. My heart swells with pride every time I get a photo of a client wearing one of my pieces.

My proudest moment of late was finding out one of my hats was selected for London Hat Week 2020 — 200 hats were chosen from 38 countries.

Spendthrift or saver?

Saving? What’s that? Lol...

Name one thing you would improve in your area in which you live?

Carrigaline needs more dining options,in my opinion.

What makes you happy?

My family, friends, creating and designing headpieces and the occasional night out!

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who was kind, creative, funny, loyal, passionate... and a bit quirky!

What else are you up to at the moment?

Lots! It’s very exciting times for Panama & Pearl Millinery. I have a few fashion events in the pipeline.

I will have a pop up shop at Ladies Day in Carrigaline Court Hotel on Saturday, March 7. I will also be participating in the Wren (Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network) showcase on February 24 in Pairc Ui Caoimh.

I cannot wait to attend London Hat Week in April. I will have to pinch myself when I see my hat at the exhibition! I’m looking forward to the launch party and meeting milliners from all over the world.

More about Panama & Pearl Millinery

Elaine’s unique headpieces are handmade with love and care, fusing vintage or contemporary materials with classic design. She works closely with her clients in creating pieces that reflect their story, personality and style.

Some of Elaine’s creations are available for sale or hire in The Hut hair design in Carrigaline. She is also available for consultations each on Thursday mornings in Stitch ‘n Design, Desmond House in Carrigaline. She also posts nationwide. For more info, check out,

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