Orla Kiely (pronounced Kylie) credits her grandmother as being the creative influence as she grew up and her father for buying her a sewing machine when she was 12.
After qualifying as a textile designer at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design she moved to New York where she worked in fabric and wallpaper design. She then went on to study for a Masters at London’s Royal College of Art. The hats that she designed for her exit show at the RCA were later purchased by Harrods but despite this, went onto start designing her own range of handbags when her father noted that everyone had a handbag but no one was wearing a hat.
In the late 90’s she developed handbag designs using laminated fabrics. In 1997 went on to form the Orla Kiely Partnership with her husband Dermott Rowan. In an interview Dermott explained “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!”. The business was an immediate success.
She has been widely recognised for her contribution to design, including an honorary degree from the University of Creative Arts in 2014. Followed by an honorary fellow of the British Institute of Design in 2015 and she was awarded the title of Visiting Professor of Textiles at the Royal College of Art alongside being made a Senior Fellow in 2016.
Kiely has been described as the “Queen of Prints’ by The Guardian and her designs have been used on a wide variety of objects including kitchenware, stationery, furniture, bedding, wallpaper, home accessories and curtains. The popular multi stem design has even been used on the back of a London bus.
She has also written two books. ‘Pattern‘, published in 2017 in which she talks about growing up and the influences on her work today & ‘A Life in Pattern’ where she shares the full range of patterns and designs created since starting her business in the 1990’s.
Loving Orla Kiely? So do we! You can see our range of Orla Kiely products here.