The Irish designer spills all ahead of her London exhibition this May.
Orla Kiely is the Irish designer synonymous with print and mid-century panache who is fast gaining national treasure status. Ahead of her much-anticipated exhibition Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern at London's Fashion & Textile Museum this May, we catch up with the designer to hear what makes her tick.
Q&A by Rebecca Kelly
How did it feel to hear the announcement of an exhibition celebrating twenty years of your work?
We were approached by the Fashion & Textile Museum, almost a year ago, I felt excited and a little overwhelmed by the idea. But it has been a great adventure, going through the last 23 years of work, seeing the depth of our print archive, reflecting on all our projects, rediscovering bags we designed over 20 years ago and how far we have come. We are seeing this exhibition as a moment to celebrate.
Is there any aspect of the exhibition you are particularly proud of?
After 23 years, choosing just one aspect is a difficult one. I think having started this company with my husband from what was just an idea, to see it become its own entity is a great achievement.
Looking at this collection, what do you think was the real turning point in your career?
There have been many, but one of the most important ones was, of course, the spring summer 2000 bag collection we showed in Paris, it introduced our first Stem bag. And set the blueprint for what was to come next, not that we could have even imagined it then.
Did the retrospective aspect of the exhibition inspire you to revisit any patterns from previous years for upcoming collections?
There are so many and we are always designing new ones. But I am considering reissuing a small collection of the most requested styles. One of the dresses Kate Middleton wore was impossible for even us to buy on eBay! We will see.
What do you think is the secret to maintaining a place in the fashion industry for over twenty years?
I think trusting your instincts, good ideas are fundamental, tenacity and great team work.
Your pieces have been worn by the likes of Alexa Chung and Keira Knightley, is there any celebrity you’d love to see in the brand?
Everytime we see a celebrity or person on the street wearing one of our bags or our clothes, it's great. Seeing women feeling their best in the things we make is what we love and why we do it. Seeing a French legend like Catherine Deneuve would be great too.
Are there any up and coming designers you are impressed by?
Watching Simone Rocha and JW Anderson, two great Irish designers creating amazing collections, season to season is very impressive.
Having this platform to celebrate the last twenty years, what aspect of the future are you most looking forward to?
Designing new prints, new collections, finding new ways to use our prints, and all the design challenges that will present.
Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern will open at London’s Fashion & Textile Museum on 25 May. Get tickets here.