Orla Kiely: A Pattern of Success

Orla Kiely
Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely: A Pattern of Success

16 May 2017
2 minutes

Orla Kiely has long been regarded as one of the most successful fashion designers Ireland has ever produced, a feat nobody could have guessed when her father bought her a sewing machine at the tender age of 12 and she set about designing outfits for her younger sister at their seaside Shankill home.

The Dublin designer began her career at the capital’s National College of Art and Design (NCAD) and later at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, where she is a Visiting Professor of Textiles and where she has also established a textile scholarship in her name.

Starting out designing hats, Orla’s focus switched to handbags after a canny observation her father made at her London Fashion Week debut. Noting that most women were sporting a handbag but none were wearing hats, Mr Kiely suggested that she might try designing handbags instead. Two decades later and with success in 33 international markets and flagship stores in New York and London under her belt, Orla’s stem print laminate cloth handbags are just the tip of the brightly patterned iceberg. Her instantly recognisable bold and retro floral designs envelop everything from watches to wallpaper, jewellery to umbrellas, fashion, furnishings and footwear, not to mention the occasional bus or car. In May 2017, Kiely’s trademark style will also adorn the Irish Heart Foundation’s pin for the 27th annual Happy Heart Appeal, lending a stylish edge to many a lapel.

Her instantly recognisable bold and retro floral designs envelop everything from watches to wallpaper, jewellery to umbrellas.

Awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to the fashion industry, Kiely’s iconic designs have also garnered her a plethora of well-known fans including Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and actors Keira Knightley, Kirsten Dunst, and Lena Dunham.

From her base in London, Kiely works alongside her husband and business partner Dermott Rowan and with stores now established as far afield as Japan and three more set for South Korea, it looks like the world is her canvas when it comes to this Dubliner’s ever-growing lifestyle label.