The distinctive designs of Orla Kiely have become hugely popular in homeware products, but this popular designer hasn’t always been designing bedding and cushions.
Best known for her use of bright colours and distinctive designs, Irish designer Orla Kiely studied at the Royal College of Art in London, graduating with an MA in the early 1990s. One of her first commissions was with Harrods, to design a line of hats, but she soon moved on to designing handbags and other accessories, and later worked on the Autograph fashion range at Marks and Spencer and with other high street retailers, such as Debenhams and Habitat.
The Orla Kiely Partnership was formed in 1997, with her husband, Dermott Rowan, and the first Orla Kiely shop opened in Korea in 2003, and flagship stores in London and Tokyo in 2005. As a designer, Orla Kiely has successfully applied her skills across a broad range of products and consistently produced high quality items that are stylish and distinctive.
Orla Kiely has designed the BY range of homeware for Sainsbury’s, produced a wallpaper range for Habitat, homeware for Heal’s and even created a camping range for Millets. A full range of her own homeware collections launched in her stores in 2006, along with a menswear collection, and her products have continued to soar in popularity of the years. By 2008, she’d turned her attention towards paper and stationery items too.
A similar theme runs through both Orla’s fashion and homeware lines, with repetitive graphic patterns, bright colours and fresh looks. Floral designs are a common factor, with flower prints featuring on coats, knitwear, bags, notebooks and homeware items.
One of the most successful elements of the Orla Kiely story is how effectively a design has been used across such a range of different products. Perhaps two of the best known iconic Orla Kiely designs are the stem print, which has been seen in a variety of colourways on items such as bedding, cushions and bath mats, and the pear print, which has been equally widely used on everything from mugs to notebooks. Both are instantly identifiable as one of Orla’s and, although the designs themselves are relatively simple, they look utterly stunning.
Rachel Newcombe April 29th, 2010
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