Orla Kiely, queen of the nostalgic print, introduces her whimsical new fashion collection, L’Orla
Words Pendle Harte
Tell us about L’Orla. What inspired it?
L’Orla is a way of developing ideas that otherwise might be too whimsical for our mainline collection. It was inspired initially as a creative collaboration between our long time stylist and Violet magazine editor Leith Clark and myself. When it comes to fashion, we are kindred spirits as we both have a love for all things 60s and 70s.
Which are your favourite pieces from the L’Orla collection?
That is a tricky question, as I love them all for different reasons, but I especially love our floral embroideries developed with expert weavers. The results are incredibly beautiful and the dresses are magic. The lace knits are also very pretty. It is hard to choose.
How does the second collection build on the first?
For the L’Orla collection this season we have been inspired by 70s Laura Ashley, the effortless romantic spirit of Celia Birtwell and classic American brand Gunne Sax. Our L’Orla ladies are Shelley Duvall, one of the quintessential 70s beauties, and Mary Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, who was light years ahead in her layering and style. With these inspirations we have designed our most feminine collection to date, with special floral embroideries on silk organza dresses and printed ditzy florals on Italian baby corduroy dungarees. Lurex knit scallop-patterned necklines combined with cashmere sweaters. Playing with contrasting prints make for a modern day romantic spirit.
You have been involved in lots of collaborations. Are there any more to come?
We have been incredibly lucky to work with some great partners on different projects. We are continually developing something special.
You’re known as much for your homewares as your fashion. Which is closer to your heart?
Orla Kiely – the company – developed from a passion for mid-century design and print. This has informed all aspects of our product, from the ready-to-wear collections, fragrance, beauty, handbags, watches, jewellery, homewares, wallpapers and more. My style has always remained clean, simple, measured, bold and brave, evolving each year with new designs and distinctive prints. It’s about capturing a new spirit each season, which speaks to women everywhere. For me, it is this complete picture we create that I love, the way our customer lives her life, through our love of colour and pattern, we reinvent the every day, and make it a little more special.
You have spoken out against consumer excess. Do you think we should all stop shopping?
No, we should not stop shopping but we should definitely be more selective and considered when buying something. It should be functional and beautiful, which I always keep in mind when designing a product.
You have previously mentioned your childhood kitchen as an inspiration. What was it like?
Growing up in Ireland in the 1970s had a great influence on my creative vision. My 1950s modernist family home, my mother’s great style, the area we lived in Dublin, just two minutes from the beach, close to the greenest fields and the mountains too. All this natural beauty and modernist style influenced my taste for colour and design.
There’s a lot of nostalgia in your designs. Why is that?
My inspirations will always be firmly based in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Those were times of great films, innovative design in all fields and, of course, the unforgettable music that remains so influential to this day.
What other interiors do you admire?
I am devoted to beautiful mid-century interiors and wrote a book dedicated to the subject, called Home. My favourite houses are featured, such as Seigel House in Nottingham, Scheer House, Vila Bendvold and Brabrand House in Denmark are quite remarkable in their design and simplicity.
As a mother, how do you find time to combine your work and home life?
My two sons are young men now and studying at university, but while they were growing up, it was a tricky balance. Having the right support made things much easier. It was a team effort, always a joy.
Childrenswear seems to be missing from your collections. Are there any plans for that?
You never know what might be around the corner!
Can you tell us about the house you live in? Is it filled with your own designs?
I live in south London with my husband and my two dogs Olive and Ivy, my home has a very mid-century aesthetic. I have combined vintage furniture from fairs with products we have made. Our wallpaper prints, cushions and a special mohair blanket are to be found in the living room. In the kitchen our tableware adds something special at dinner times, and our towels in the bathrooms add some extra colour and pattern to everyday life.