There are some designers who you just know. You’ve had their wares and heard their names since you can remember, and Orla Kiely is one of those designers. Famed for her cute and pretty prints, having begun her career as a hat maker, Orla has expanded her empire to bags, dresses and even home wear. We grabbed the lovely Irish lady to have a chat about all things print.
You have put your designs on everything from bags to homeware, where else would you love to see them?
I’d love to see my prints on the London underground seats. It’s a such an iconic part of London culture and it would be great to have my designs on a part of Londoner’s everyday lives.
You’ve created such beautiful and iconic prints over the years, which print has been a standout favourite of yours?
The stem print is obviously my signature print but I really loved the ‘raining cats and dogs’ print I designed for AW14 and the new shoe prints I created for Resort 2015 – they are feminine but still have a vibrant, strong edge to them – which is exactly how I see my customer.
We’ve seen your designs on style trendsetters, from Kate Middleton to Helena Christensen, but what kind of girl are you designing for?
I’m designing for a girl who feels confident wearing my designs. My designs are ageless and I like the fact they can be dressed up or dressed down. I don’t believe in following trends and design for women who are confident in their tastes.
You really are the Queen of Print! What do you particularly love about it?
Personally, I find that prints and patterns can evoke memories – they can create moods and inspire confidence. I like that prints can reference design eras of the past but can be something brand new.
Moving onto the design process – does the print come first?
Each season I feel drawn to a different reference point – it’s at this point that I fully explore different avenues and develop from there.
Can you tell us a little something about your current handbag collection, what was your inspiration?
This season was inspired by ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ and had a 1960’s ‘safari’ feel to it. The binocular shaped bags were a new shape that were obviously a nod to the safari mood! The leather texture has an earthy feel to them and the mock croc designs were designed with an exotic theme in mind.
Sounds fab! So, is your favourite bag from the latest collection?
Personally, I love the patent leather bay bag. It’s very practical with large two pockets and it comes in a dark navy or a bright, statement pink. I could see it working with many different outfits and for many different occasions.
What do you think makes your designs so desirable the world over, and in Asia specifically?
I feel that print and colour transcends cultures. I like to think of my designs as optimistic and it’s a feeling that I want my customer to have when buying my collections. The Asian customer is feminine and she is cute, this makes her perfect for my designs.
What are the main style differences you see between London, where you are based, and here in Asia?
I think Asia is a lot more unique – the street style in London is fantastic and is a main source of inspiration for so many designers, but in Asia, from what I’ve witnessed, people have their own, unique style. Functionality also plays a big part for Asia and it’s a key element in my designs.
What’s on your “must pack list” when travelling to Asia?
I always bring a stem print umbrella, you know, with the Asian showers! I also carry all my essentials in one of my ‘etc‘ washbags – its lightweight which makes it perfect for long trips!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I love coffee – maybe a little too much!
As you work with your husband, how do you separate work from family life?
I’ve learned that its best to turn off my phone and not check my emails as soon as I get home – otherwise I’d never stop working! We also make sure we have lunch together just to catch up on each others days.
Finally, what advice would you give to budding young designers?
Trust and believe in your instincts – it’s a very fickle business and that means a lot of hard work. I’d say its best to focus on your strengths and build a collection from there. And most importantly – make good use of your time – time management is the most important skill you learn when just starting out.
Orka Kiely is available online at www.orlakiely.com