Orla Kiely: Mod Mother of Nature

Orla Kiely’s name might sound familiar to you, but her prints are so recognizable, it’s a wonder her name isn’t as popular as her famous patterns!  In honor of “Irish Week,” we’re celebrating the creative Dublin-born designer and her beautiful achievements in the fashion world.  Kiely is famous for her mod prints of items found in nature, and her most popular pattern is her “Stem” design (pictured, top right), which appears on clothing, furniture, accessories, dinnerware, and cars!  Kiely was born in the capital of Ireland in 1964, and it is a decade that has influenced her ever since.  Her throwback patterns look straight out of that era, and the designer admits her childhood heavily influenced her style.  In 2010, she spoke of growing up in the 1960s to The Independent, “It was lovely… The greens, the yellows … the clouds, the skies and the sea.  In a sense, it’s not colorful, but you do see accents in the wild flowers by the road, or the yellow gorse on the mountains.  I love all those dirty colors – and mixed in with sharp brights they look more sophisticated.”  Kiely originally worked for a wallpaper designer in New York, after studying at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design.  After moving to London to work for Esprit, she earned her Master’s in knitwear at the Royal College of Art.  At her graduation show at the RCA, Kiely displayed her own line of hats, which a buyer from Harrod’s purchased.  Later, she did design work for Marks & Spencer, and Habitat.  According to the New York Times, during Kiely’s first appearance at London Fashion Week, her father noticed all the girls were carrying handbags, and no one was wearing a hat.  This led Kiely to a whole new realm – pocketbooks!  They took off, and by the late 1990s, Kiely came up with the idea of laminating cloth for handbags, and in 1997, she formed The Orla Kiely Partnership with her husband, Dermott Rowan, with who she has two sons, Robert and Hamish.  In February 2009, Target introduced a line of home decor featuring the nature patterns of Miss Orla’s mind.  More recently, Kiely’s work became even more popular when Kate Middleton sported two frocks of hers last year.  The first, a walnut brown bird-patterned dress coat Kate wore while visiting schools in Oxford that sold out within minutes (pictured, above right).  The second was the gray accordion dress the princess wore last March (pictured, above left), while visiting the Dulwich Picture Gallery (which made it into our Top 10 Outfits of 2012!)  But the Duchess of Cambridge isn’t the only celebrity in love with Orla’s designs – her clothing has been spotted on Kirsten Dunst, Alexa Chung, and Keira Knightley.  Kiely is also a visiting professor of textiles at her Alma mater, the Royal College of Art, and published her own book of patterns in 2010 called, what else, Pattern.  Kiely’s designs may be retro, but they’re certainly not going out of style any time soon!

2 thoughts on “Orla Kiely: Mod Mother of Nature

  1. Loved these designs – brought back memories of patterns and clothes from the 60’s and 70’s!

  2. Pingback: Look-of-the-Day | theSkinnyStiletto

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