Hats off to a new partnership

While running a business during a pandemic presented countless challenges, one Donegal business used the lockdown period as an opportunity to invest in training. Formed in 1924, Hanna Hats is a third generation Donegal family business that makes high quality tweed products sold all over the world; like many businesses, the COVID-19 lockdowns affected the company’s bottom line, because all trade shows were cancelled.

While searching for potential staff training, Eleanor Hanna, General Manager, saw an opportunity and approached Donegal ETB.  “All our products are expertly crafted by hand at our facility in Donegal Town by our team of skilled cutters and machinists using the highest quality woven tweed” Eleanor said. “We wanted to use the lockdown to build upon the existing skill set and expand our product range. I approached Donegal ETB and they were able to provide a training programme with a City & Guilds Qualification to meet our needs. Under the Skills to Advance  initiative, we engaged in a ‘Design and Make a Fashion Accessory’ course with Donegal ETB. This training focused on upskilling existing staff in the area of pattern drafting and new product creation techniques.”

The designer, Eilish Kennedy, worked with the group and was impressed by their passion and quality: “The fifteen participants were really engaged in the training and showed a real interest in learning and were excited about the certification,” Eilis said. “They enjoyed colour theory and discovering innovative ways to create new accessories, capturing the process in sketchbooks. The participants also enjoyed visits to Donegal Yarns and Studio Donegal, a local weaving company; they were fascinated by the creation of yarns and the weaving process that creates the cloth that has been renowned for centuries in Donegal. These visits deepened the group’s understanding of the indigenous textile industries in Donegal.”

Eleanor Hanna was delighted with the partnership: “Since my grandfather, David Hanna Senior, set up the business in 1924, we have continually reinvented and adapted our business model to diversify, reach new markets and grow. The outcome of this programme means upskilled staff can now have input into new collection designs for Autumn 2021. This certified training is a way to future proof jobs and make Hanna Hats more agile in developing new product lines for our seasonal launches. Our products are steeped in history and heritage which really resonates with the growing appetite among consumers for authentic yet affordable, sustainable fashion and this training through Donegal ETB will help our business grow and reach a wider audience.”

The ETB was able to provide additional training in areas such as IT and research skills. This supported the main programme, as many of the participants had no prior experience of IT, and really boosted the overall confidence of staff. A by-product of this training was greater collaboration and teamwork between the employees. One member of the team commented that he was “afraid of the sketchbook, the writing processes and the computer,” but soon realised, “What can go wrong?” and intends to continue his learning with Donegal ETB.

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Ann Joyce with her designs
Items designed by Marta Kryszak
Tony Gallagher with his designs