Orla Kiely, Fancy Patterns from an Irish Designer
Located among the British Isles, Ireland is usually famous for the St. Patrick’s Festival or its legend of leprechauns. But the country has also become the launchpad of many amazing talents, including Orla Kiely.
Currently based in London, the designer, who is an Irish native, honed her affinity for design since studying textile design at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. After working for a wallpaper and fabric designer in New York, she moved to London to continue her study at the Royal College of Art. Kiely’s exit show there showcased her hat collection, which was instantly purchased by the famed department store Harrods. This led her to work for several companies before starting her own business in 1995.
For her namesake brand, Kiely has created a wide range of products, from clothes and handbags to various kinds of home ware. What is noticeable from her design is her penchant for patterns, making her dubbed by The Guardian as the “Queen of Prints.”
She even published a book titled—what else?—Pattern in 2010, in which she proclaimed, “Pattern is not a trend for me, to be taken up one minute and abandoned the next when the winds of fashion change. Pattern is in me. It is my life.”
So how to describe Kiely’s signature prints? For starters, they are usually characterised by minimalist depictions of flowers, leaves, and other natural themes with a retro bent. Influenced by mid-century design (she counted films like Rosemary’s Baby as her inspiration), Kiely applies these strong yet simple graphic prints on various things.
Her kitchenware creations include bone china mugs, storage jars, colourful tiered cake stand, and even aprons. Her vibrant prints also adorn other home ware items: wallpapers that will brighten your living room, cushions to throw on your sofa, as well as bedding and towels that are for everyday use.
Not to mention, Kiely also dips into the fashion world through her whimsical womenswear collection that features everything, from a prim evening dress to adorable—and surely comfy—knitwear.
In an interview with The New Zealand Herald, Kiely remarked, “I never get bored of coming up with new prints. The simpler they are, the more difficult they are to design.” She also pointed out that she is always attracted to opposites, hence the contrasting colours often found in her prints.
Here’s hoping that her colourful patterns will brighten up our lives more in the years to come.