Orla Kiely is a qualified textile designer – a very difficult industry to survive in – but a clear head for business has turned her name and designs into a multi-million pound business. Orla has applied her graphic retro patterns to anything from homeware (storage jars, paper trays, bed linen, wallpaper, chairs, etc) to fashion (clothing, handbags, etc), and even to perfume and home fragrance. Here are a few examples of how just one of her designs, the iconic ‘Stem’ design, has been applied to a wide number of items..
And here is a brief synopsis of her career from Wikipedia:
Kiely qualified as a textile designer from the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and moved to New York to work for a wallpaper and fabric designer. She moved to England to work for Esprit, while undertaking a Masters at the Royal College of Art in London, primarily in knitwear. She displayed a range of hats in her exit show at the RCA, which were purchased by Harrods. She did design work for Marks & Spencer and Habitat.
She moved into handbags after her father noted during her first London Fashion Week that everyone was carrying a handbag, but no one was wearing a hat. In the late 90s, the idea of laminating cloth for handbags came to her, “At the time, no one was doing anything like it. Laminated fabric, in those days, meant tablecloths.”
Together with her husband, Dermott Rowan, she formed The Orla Kiely Partnership in 1997. Her husband explained in an interview, “Nothing was planned, the whole thing started by accident. Orla was consulting for other companies and designing her own collection at the weekend, which she would give to me to organise. We had this chaotic situation where deliveries of her designs would come into our apartment and if I didn’t get them out by 5pm, there was nowhere to sit!” Orla Kiely showed in London Fashion Week and secured her first export orders. The following year, they took the collection to Premiere Class.
She was featured on a stamp issued by the Republic of Ireland in July 2010, along with fellow designers Philip Treacy, John Rocha and Paul Costelloe. It is an 82c stamp, showing her name in large orange letters at the top along with an image of a handbag with her leaf design against a white background. Her fashion line has been seen on actresses such as Kirsten Dunst and Alexa Chung.
She has been awarded the title of Visiting Professor of Textiles at the Royal College of Art.
What I admire most about her is her openness to new directions and relentless pursuit of building her brand; yet her designs always still seem fresh and quirky and not over-commercialised.
You can view the full range of items (including other patterns) here.