Getting Ahead with an Eye for Head-Turning Designs; Breaking Through

Article excerpt

Byline: JOHN SWINFIELD

SETTING up in business on your own can be a labour of love rather than a quick route to a lifetime of riches. Still, hat designer Tara O'Callaghan probably never thought she would make so little out of her embryo business.

"I'm taking about [pound]50 a week - it's ridiculous," says the 28-year-old, whose hats sell for between [pound]60 and [pound]300. "I only make a few pounds on each.

Most goes on materials while the shops take a big slice. If you worked out everything down to the last penny, including my time, I'm making very little.

"A lot of it is my fault. I like the artistic side of millinery but I'm now having to master disciplines such as keeping books, working out margins and worrying about tax and VAT.

"I am terrible at the business side of things but I don't find the administration boring - I merely prefer a thimble to a file. I've still got a lot to learn - and I'm very willing to learn."

We are in her studio, a tiny converted coal shed in her parents' garden in a village near Salisbury, Wiltshire. She is sporting a black titfer which she designed and wore to her grandmother's funeral the previous day. "I think I'll go into production with these, add them to the collection - I'm sure Granny wouldn't mind."

Tara O'Callaghan Hats came into being after she studied at the London College of Fashion and spent time learning her trade in the employ of leading milliner Philip Treacy.

"I pestered the life out of him for a job. When I managed to get in, I was the tea-maker and progressed from there. …