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Trendsetter: Nicole McInnis

She's now taking her skills as a milliner to TV and film productions

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Photo: Jessie Redmond

Photo: Jessie Redmond

Nicole McInnis started making hats as a child working with her mother, who was a costume designer for a children’s theatre. “We were always creating in our home,” says McInnis, who grew up in Hubbards.

McInnis later took costume studies at Dalhousie and then moved to Toronto where she studied fashion design at Ryerson University. While in Toronto, she started her hat-making business, before moving back to Halifax two years ago. Now she designs hats for her own line, Oh Dina. She sells them on Etsy and in stores across the country.

McInnis is now taking her skills as a milliner to TV and film productions. When Halifax Magazine caught up with her, she was in Calgary working as a milliner on an HBO series.

Why do you love hats?

I’ve always liked to adorn my head with something. If you look at it over time, historically, women have always had something in the hair, whether it’s a large hat or even a little bit of flowers.

How did you get into film work?

Someone from [the Lifetime series] Lizzie Borden Chronicles called me and asked me to trim hats. It wasn’t my first film project, but it was my first as a milliner. I was doing costumes prior to that, 10 years prior. They realized I could make the hats and design the hats and I ended up designing the whole series. The costumes are going to be on display during the Emmys.

How does that make you feel to have your work at the Emmys?

It’s absolutely crazy. I’ve always said yes to everything because you never know what that opportunity can bring you… It’s going to be so amazing to see my work in a museum setting because I’ve seen my work on the runways before. I’ve had my hats in Toronto Fashion Week. I’ve been really fortunate to be in a lot of the leading fashion magazines in Canada. But to see it in Los Angeles in a whole different venue and platform, it’s very exciting.

What do you like about working on a film set?

It’s a different kind of challenge. The majority of my business now is custom bridal and I love that because you have this intimate experience with someone on the happiest day of their life. In film, it’s fast, you have to know the characters, you have to understand what the costume designer is envisioning and what will make the actor happy. There are all of these challenges… It’s very exhilarating.

Tell me about your DIY flower crown business.

I have been teaching flower crown workshops for the last two years. What I wanted to do was create a safe environment for women to come in and make something really cool they would love and that they would actually wear. I wanted it to be you come in, have some sangria with your girlfriends, you make a beautiful flower crown, everyone has a great time. It just kind of took off; this past year, when I had my own space, I decided to put it up on Instagram I was going to do my own workshops again. My first workshop filled up in 15 minutes. And then I put up another one for the month and it filled up in two hours for every Thursday that month. I realized there are so many people who follow me on Instagram and Facebook who wanted to be a part of that who weren’t in Halifax. So I came up with these DIY flower crown kits… It’s awesome because it’s $30 and you have everything you need to make a flower crown.

How do the changes to Nova Scotia’s film-tax credit affect you?

I just got back into film in Nova Scotia and it was so amazing to have had my dream job that I didn’t even know was my dream job. When Lizzie Borden came along, I didn’t know that would move me as much as it did. It was so cool to finally be back in Nova Scotia… [The changes are] so disheartening. So many of my friends work in film and to see how it’s affecting them is awful. And also a lot of the people who work in film, they are the ones who support the arts.

What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs, especially in creative fields like yours?

I think it’s great to find a niche market. To really know what you are doing, you have to research. For me, social media has been the key to my longevitiy. I am shocked I am still able to do this every day. You need to find your own style. You can’t be knocking off other people’s work. It doesn’t matter if you’re in another city; you have to be original. I did this all on my own, really. I didn’t have a mentor. A lot of people say if you’re a young entrepreneur you have to have someone to mentor you and it’s been trial and error and figuring it out as I go.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to continue to work in film because it’s a new challenge and it would be really amazing to work all over the world and be able to create hats… I love Oh Dina, so I am always going to be doing that. I will always need to have my own business and creating my own personal projects. I want to get back to Halifax very soon. I always want Nova Scotia to be my home base… I always want to be home and close to the ocean. 

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