Style stampede as hatters work like mad to make finery for Galway race week
Ireland's milliners are working flat out for the busiest eight days in this year's fashion calendar.
The Dublin Horse Show followed by the Galway Races has triggered a style stampede for bespoke one-off headpieces - and with the lucrative Best Dressed prizes worth €10,000 at the RDS last week and €10,000 at Ladies' Day in Galway next Thursday, the racing gals have purpose.
Around 160,000 people will head to Galway over the course of the seven-day festival and roughly 5,000 bottles of champagne will be drained.
The Galway Races, which have been staged at Ballybrit Racecourse since 1869, is worth an estimated €54m to the local economy.
Some 800 horses will compete in 52 races for a prize fund of €1.9m.
However, all eyes will be on the well-heeled ladies come Thursday as the Best Dressed competition - judged by radio presenter Louise Duffy - kicks off.
No wonder then that designers and milliners have been busy.
Tralee milliner Carol Kennelly developed her business after winning the Best Dressed crown at the Galway Races in 2008.
The mother-of-two used some of her winnings to do a millinery course with Lina Stein in Castlebar, Co Mayo, and over the last eight years, Carol's reputation has soared.
Clinching the Best Dressed crown at the Dublin Horse Show two years ago copper-fastened her reputation for designing hugely creative hats and headpieces.
"It's really busy and I've been getting up at 5am and sewing until 10pm," Carol told the Irish Independent.
"There is no one trend at the moment, it's anything goes and everyone wants something new and completely different to what's out there.
"And colour wise, I find people are going for pops of colour that will get them noticed as opposed to neutrals," she added.
Internationally acclaimed hat designer Philip Treacy put his home county Galway on the world millinery map - and it is one of the striking aspects of the industry that so many of Ireland's talented creatives come from the County of the Tribes.
Caithriona King is turning heads with her striking headpieces as well as her more conventional pieces inspired by Kate Middleton.
And moving from the field of architecture to hat design certainly paid off for Fiona Mangan from Athenry.
Her sculptural, custom-made pieces will be much in evidence at the Galway races, which start tonight, with pop-up style competitions in the city's hotels taking place all week.
Galway milliner Edel Ramberg regularly wins the highly coveted Best Hat at Ballybrit - but this year she will miss the races as she is expecting her first baby early next month.
However, Edel might make it to The G Hotel's post-races Best Dressed event on Ladies' Day because it is very close to her home.
The prize that evening is attracting a lot of interest because it is a 'Sinamay Slice' hat from Philip Treacy and is valued by the Ahascragh native at €2,000.