Friday, 15 June 2018

Orla Kiely

As a textile designer myself, I'm always interested to see how other textile designers choose to work. Many, like me, freelance for wholesalers, retailers or work for an agent who sells their designs for them, but every now and then you get a textile designer who makes a name for themselves and recognition for the beautiful designs they do. One of those people is Orla Kiely, who is well known for her graphic patterns which are instantly recognisable. She now has an exhibition of her work on at the Fashion and Textile Museum and I headed down there to check it out.

The exhibition features over 150 patterns and products as well as collaborations with photographers, film directors and architects. You quickly get a feel for how much she has done over the years that she has been designing. The walls were covered with a random patchwork of all the designs she has done, many of which I'd forgotten about.

Her well known 'Stem' design (similar to the one above) has been used on everything from handbags to oven gloves and has been reproduced in a varying style and colour but always manages to keep the essence of the simple leaf and stem design that is instantly recognisable.

The designs above appear simple but have obviously been well thought out using a balanced colour palette and a variety of scales within each design to give it interest. For example, the design above (bottom left) uses a very simple black and red floral and leaf motif, but by alternately enlarging the flower, it creates more interest within the design.

The designs above are fun and playful and I love the abstract nature of them. Look closer at the green design and you see that it is a selection of little people tipping their hats to one another. The simple yet clever design below shows swimming ladies. I love the Art Deco feel to the design.

Orla Kiely has used a lot of animal motifs in her designs. In a lot of cases their simple, set layout creates a new design where the negative space is just as important as the positive. I like the simple inclusion of a selection of colours in each of the foxes faces below.

Orla Kiely was always interested in fashion from an early age and the styling of her fashion ranges were often inspired by the 60s and 70s, as were her textile designs. For this exhibition she created garments that showed a play on scale.

She created nine enormous garments based on previous collections in iconic prints (above), and alongside those she had the most beautiful little dolls wearing the same print but scaled right down (below).

Upstairs in the exhibition there is a selection of garments from past collections. One of my favourites was this dress that had a fab graphic print of a 1960s shoe. The model was also wearing similar shoes.

And last, but definitely not least, there was a wall of handbags! Heaven. They had all been organised in order of colour and nearly made me weep with joy!

In the mid-90s, whilst showcasing hats at London Fashion Week, Orla Kiely's father noticed that few women actually wore hats, but they all had a bag, and so began a key addition to the Orla Kiely collections. She started with cotton bags, but soon moved on to more durable versions, often including a quirky touch. My favourite bag was the one below.

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