By day she dispenses medicines and ointments to the poorly folk of Northern Ireland, but by night she arms herself with scissors and a glue gun and becomes The Milliner.
Sian Cousins is a pharmacist by trade but in her spare time she is slowly but surely making a name for herself as a hat maker.
The Queen’s University Pharmacy graduate, who finished second overall in Northern Ireland at Art in her A-Level year, took part in a Q&A with belfastvibe about her new found passion…
Q. What attracted you to millinery and why now to make your first foray into hat making?
A. My first millinery experience was very accidental. I was trying to find something to match a dress for a friends wedding. After been very disappointed with what was on the high street I decided to make something myself. I got so many compliments on it that I did the same thing for the next wedding and so on. It’s grown from there, friends and family started to ask me to make pieces for them and this is where it all started.
Q. What was the first hat you made and do you give your hats names?
A. The first headpiece I ever made was for the Galway Races last year. I also designed and made a matching skirt to wear. It was a bright, colourful retro style print. When I did the obligatory ‘how do I look?’ question to my boyfriend, I got told I looked like a giant liquorice allsort. Hence my first piece was given the name ‘Bertie’ after Bertie Bassett.
Although it is traditional to give headpieces girls’ names I like to give them nicknames or catchphrases instead. So far this year I’ve had ‘Goldrush’, ‘My Fair Lady’ and ‘Sailor Jerry’ to name a few.
Q. How did you end up talking about hats on Irish TV? How did your first TV appearance go?
A. A friend tagged me in a Facebook post from an TV presenter called Emily O’Donnell. She was calling for milliners to get in touch as she was producing a six part series on millinery and fashion in Ireland (starts on Irish TV/Sky 191 on Thursday March 24 at 8.30pm). I was delighted she asked me to get involved. The episode that I filmed for is to do with the business of millinery and the fact that I do it in my spare time while working full time as a pharmacist. It was an amazing experience and as I’ve only be doing this nine months it was very surreal to have such an opportunity. The producers and Emily were lovely to work with and very calming as I was a bundle of nerves. It will be great to get to show off my pieces to such a wide audience.
Q. Can anybody wear a hat or do you need a particular type of head to carry it off?
A. Anyone can wear a hat! It’s just about finding the right one for you. There are a lot of traditional rules; people with small faces shouldn’t wear large hats, long faces should have a wider brim etc but the most important thing is how you feel wearing the piece. People only really wear headpieces occasionally so they tend to be a bit unsure or nervous about what to wear. As long as your confident and like what you are wearing throw the rules out the window.
Q. Are the vocations of pharmacy and millinery mutually compatible?
A. I like the fact that they are both so different. It’s nice to come home after a stressful day in the pharmacy and block a hat. There are events like hatwalk (millinery showcase in Derry/ Londonderry Friday March 11) and wear a hat day (March 26) to raise money for Brain Tumour research, which bring together health care and millinery.
Q. Who are your target customers?
A. My main customer base is females attending weddings or race meets. I’ll love to do some straw sun hats for summer and some unisex trilby hats for winter at some stage.
Q. Where can people see your products?
A. I have a Facebook page – Sian Cousins Millinery. Hopefully in the future I will have my own website, that’s one of my many goals this year. I am also collaborating with a boutique in Banbridge called Carnaby Btq so my designs will be available to purchase there very soon.
Q. Would you like to go full time?
A. I would love to. It would be great to do something creative all the time. Ideally I would like to find a way to incorporate both in my life.
Q. Which celebrity would you most like to see wearing one of your hats?
A. Because I love a bit of drama and something a bit different I’d love to make something for Lady Gaga. On the other hand though I’d love to make something classic for Kate Middleton, she’s always has impeccable millinery and styling.