Former Irish teacher Andrea Tighe never considered herself an artist growing up but she has always shown a creative side, particularly when it came to fashion
The former Coláiste Iognáid and NUI Galway student did, after all, design both her debs dress and her wedding dress.
Andrea’s artistic talents have really come to the fore since she established Tí Tighe Millinery in January of this year. Initially, however, her flair for headpiece creation arose out of necessity rather than any entrepreneurial spirit.
“Initially, it was for myself. I couldn’t find something different enough or unique for me to wear – I needed to make my own headpieces if I was going to friend’s wedding or a special event or these kind of things,” says Andrea.
However, such was her skill at bringing her unique ideas to life, Andrea, who had taken a break from her teaching career to be at home with her children, was soon convinced to turn her hobby into a business.
“I was encouraged to start this business myself because so many people were saying that I really should, so I did. I took the leap of faith and turned it into a business.”
Creatively, Andrea has continued to be her own source of inspiration, preferring to avoid the current trends in millinery, despite her huge admiration for the many talented Irish milliners out there at the moment.
“I try not to take any kind of influence or inspiration from anyone else because it’s too easy to get caught up in that…but I do love some of the milliners out there,” she says, adding that she enjoys the “healthy competition” created by the strong talent pool of milliners in the West.
Designing creative and aesthetically-pleasing headpieces is one thing, but running a business, particularly in the difficult economic climate, is another prospect entirely.
Andrea is nonetheless enjoying the business side of the operation, a fact she attributes to the help she has received from the St Columba’s Credit Union Ltd (SCCUL) Mentoring programme.
“They have just provided a wealth of advice and support and help you to see the bigger picture. I could just sit in my studio sewing and designing and you’d kind of just let the world go by, whereas they help you see the whole picture. My mentor, Deirdre O’Connell, she has just been fantastic,” enthuses Andrea.
She has further propelled Tí Tighe into the big leagues of millinery through her recent success in the ‘Who Wants to be a Milliner’ competition, held in the RDS recently, after winning the Galway heat at the g Hotel.
“When they announced me as the winner, I nearly fell. I couldn’t believe it. It was just fantastic, because of the number of people who had entered these competitions and the wonderful creations and all the lovely people I met. And it was wonderful to represent Galway at the RDS,” she recalls.
Having been propelled on to the national stage and having her work judged by such luminaries as Philip Treacy and Brendan Courtney, Andrea plans to keep her ear to the ground, and vows to “snap up any opportunities” that come her way.
Her work will be featured in the upcoming ‘Glitz and Glam’ fashion show in Galway this December, and she is currently working on a luxurious new winter collection, which, given the weather in the West in the winter, presents its own difficulties.
“That’s a challenge in itself, isn’t it? Thank goodness we have umbrellas!”
Visit www.ti-tighe.com to view more of Andrea’s creations. For more on the SCCUL Mentoring programme, log onto www.scculmentors.ie.