Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely is a London based fashion designer originally from Ireland. She started off with only a drop of water in hand, and soon owned an ocean. Initially, Kiely designed only hats and then moved on to creating handbags as well as a range of different items, such as products for kitchens and eventually cars.

Kiely praises and honors her grandmother for instilling creativity into her life. Her mother belonged to the field of science, however she was urged to fortify her work by her boss when she married Kiely’s father, an accountant. In Dublin, she graduated in textile design from the National College of Art and Design, moving then to New York to work with a fabric and wallpaper designer. While doing her masters, she worked in England at Esprit. She studied from the Royal College of Art (RCA) in order to attain a master’s degree. After this, she worked at numerous corporations gaining experience and sharpening her skills. Once Kiely felt sufficiently competent, she set up her own company. Her thesis collection at RCA was bought by Harrods.

In her debut in London Fashion Week, Kiely’s father made her realize that the hat business that she started is not so much popular because everyone during the show was with a handbag and not a hat. In order to uplift her career, she acknowledged his observation and in the 1990s, thought of using laminating cloth for purses. At the time, cloth underwent this technique only to be spread on tables.

Her father was the one to support her stitching dream and when she was only twelve years old, he gave her a Singer sewing machine which she later kept in her office as a thing to treasure. With the machine, she made jeans and outfits for parties for her sister.

Kiely married Dermott Rowan and the two have two offspring, Hamish and Robert. The family loves to play piano and own a labradoodle, named Olive. Kiely personally likes to collect vases. In 1997 along with her husband, she founded The Orla Kiely Partnership. Her husband described the birth of their company as an accident and that it wasn’t planned. Increase in orders for Kiely’s designs popped the idea.

The couple’s first show was well-received and they started getting international orders. The next year, they launched a Premiere Class collection. Moving on, actresses including Alexa Chung and Kristen Dunst have been spotted wearing Kiely’s fashion collection, as well as Duchess of Cambridge.

In 2010, Kiely was honored by the Republic of Ireland when a stamp introduced by An Post featured her and other designers, Paul Costelloe, John Rocha, Lainey Keogh, Lousie Kennedy and Phillip Treacy. In addition to this, she has been given the opportunity to be among the visiting faculty of the textiles department at RCA.

The Guardian described Orla Kiely as the Print Queen and since then her designs have been used on various objects, like furniture, stationery, wallpaper, kitchenware and an array of Citroën DS3s. On cars her motifs and patterns are used on rear spoiler, tailgate, roofs, car seats and foot mats. She operates her business from a three-storey building in South London. The middle level is occupied by her studio.

Apart from the all this, she collaborated with companies called Brita and Suffolk to develop refillable bottles for water, known as Wottle. The bottle has a design by Kiely on it and is produced using polyethylene.


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