"Listowel is a buoyant, vibrant town!"
"The Seanchaí embodies Listowel, it is the essence of Listowel. The writers have written both sad and happy works, but none of it is depressing, and I think that is the essence of this town, we will always find the positives."
Aoife Hannon Award winning milliner
This kitchen table also serves as the space where Aoife holds her millinery workshops. As her little dog, Alfie, keeps an eye on us, one can’t help but feel at home. Originally from Killarney, Aoife has lived and worked in Listowel for twenty years. The fifth of eight children, Aoife has grown up with a huge support network and has followed in the footsteps of her parents and her siblings by becoming a businesswoman. The support network set up by her family meant that Aoife always knew she could take chances in her career, and that she would always have her family firmly behind her. Coming from a marketing background, Aoife’s first job was promoting Killarney as a tourist destination. Because of this she is keenly aware of the hard work that the people of Listowel have put into their town. For a town to thrive it takes the ongoing dedication of the local people. Coming from a big family, Aoife recognises the same support network at work in Listowel, the friendly faces and a willingness to help is what makes our town so special.
Aoife’s career has seen her transition from marketing to auctioneering to millinery. Having studied at night to become an auctioneer, Aoife began working at Danny Hannon’s auctioneering offices in Listowel. Her career as a milliner began at this very kitchen table, where she sat making a hat to wear to Ladies Day at The Listowel Races, a hat to match a dress she bought from Chic Boutique. Her father sat next to her and told her how talented she was and how she should make a living out of it. The next day Aoife won Best Dressed Lady.
The evolution of Aoife Hannon Designs
As an auctioneer, Aoife could see the recession coming and so with the support of her mother and father, who urged her to pursue this creative path, Aoife began to create her designs for customers. The evolution of Aoife Hannon Designs found its roots in the town of Listowel. While still working as an auctioneer, Aoife displayed some of her designs in the window of Pat Hannon’s bookshop. Danny and Eileen Hannon supported Aoife fully, and even bought her some of the necessary tools for her to get started. Aoife would then be visited by ladies, with their outfits in tow, who requested custom hats to be made for them. One of the most wonderful things about Listowel is that the businesses work together in order for everyone to benefit, and Aoife’s story is a testament to this. “People still say to me, would you not open a shop in Dublin or Killarney, but you wouldn’t get the support anywhere else. My mother said to me at one stage, you are exactly where you need to be”.
The Listowel Races
Aoife’s brother is champion jockey and trainer, Jim Culloty, and her time spent on racecourses has instilled a practicality into her designs. Ladies need to be able to walk around all day, and feel comfortable. The Listowel Races are Aoife’s busiest time of year, followed by Royal Ascot. Growing her business through the recession, Aoife witnessed firsthand how much the town came together and supported one another. To this day Aoife will refer her clients to the boutiques and shoe shops in town, and vice versa. Even during the recession, the people of Listowel still came to Aoife to design their hats for the Listowel Races.
For the 10th anniversary of John B Keane’s passing, Billy Keane asked Aoife if she would commemorate his father in some way. Aoife went to Kerry Woollen Mills, and designed a limited edition traditional tweed cap in a style similar to the one that John B was never without, in a navy herringbone with a purple and green fleck. “John B’s cap was always on and off,” Aoife says, “because if he met you he would take off his cap when he was talking to you, because he was a perfect gentleman, and then the cap went back on.” The inspiration for Aoife’s designs can come from anywhere, from magpies in the town park to the galaxies glittering above us. During her morning walks with Alfie in the Cow’s Lawn, Aoife gets the chance to witness the subtle changes in the park and the movement of the river as it flows beside her and this is also a source of inspiration.
For Aoife, it is the sense of community that has been passed on from generation, and the supportive nature of the people of Listowel that have made the town her second home. “My entire life I have been blessed to do jobs I love doing, and blessed by a pair of hands that can make me a living.” Aoife is a milliner, a mother, and a businesswoman. She is proud of her accomplishments and she is grateful for the encouragement and backing both her family and the town have given her. For a generation of young women who may struggle to find their own way, Aoife is a wonderful example of what it is to be an independent woman not afraid to take risks, and most importantly, not afraid to believe in herself and her own talent.
When asked what she would recommended for a visitor to the town, Aoife suggested a visit to The Kerry Writers’ Museum. The clean white walls allow a person to absorb the town’s literary history without being overwhelmed by it. “The Seanchaí embodies Listowel, it is the essence of Listowel. The writers have written both sad and happy works, but none of it is depressing, and I think that is the essence of this town, we will always find the positives.”
Interview by Allie O’Neill