Orla Kiely: Q & A

Lucy Rhead

Online Selling Coordinator, johnlewis.com

We meet the hugely popular designer Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely is a designer whose star is on the rise and is seen as a leading figure in the current revival of 1970s styling. Her distinctive patterns and bright colours were originally used on luggage and bags almost 15 years ago, but have now found their way to numerous products for the home, including fabrics, wallpapers and, most recently, a range of furniture. Her partnership with us, which includes an exclusive range of products,  is further proof of her growing influence in the design world.

Now based in London, I caught up with the Dublin-born designer as she’s about to launch a dedicated pop-up shop, in partnership with John Lewis.

How did you start your career in design?
I was a creative child, who was obsessed with art and colour. I always loved making things, to knit and sew. I was drawn to textiles, and after my degree I worked for Esprit as a textile designer, which then inspired me to study for an MA at the Royal College of Arts. Upon
graduation my collection [of hats] was picked up by Harrods. This led to the launch of my label with the help of my husband and business partner, Dermott.

Which designers inspired you and why?
I have always been inspired by designers from the 50s and 60s. [Heal’s designer] Barbara Brown, Lucienne Day (who worked with John Lewis in the 1950s), Charles and Ray Eames, Alexander Girard (known for his work with  Herman Miller), and Saul Bass to name a few.

Why do you think your Multi Stem pattern has proved so popular?
It has an instant appeal and is easily recognisable. It is a happy print that has evolved and developed over the years. It still remains our most iconic design, strong and simple. I love that!
What is its inspiration?
It is inspired by nature. I love to stylise and simplify recognisable elements, paring them down to simple lines or shapes. It’s a graphic approach that has become my handwriting.

How did the pop-up shop with John Lewis come about?
We have been working with John Lewis for some years now. I am impressed always by their philosophy, integrity and trustworthy
reputation. To be offered the opportunity to create my own space is very exciting. We hope to make the pop-up shops a window into our world. I can’t wait!

What’s next for Orla Kiely?
The brand is growing everyday and we are always super busy. It is exciting to design products that we believe in. It is important that everything that we do is a natural fit and that our design and quality is never compromised.

Orla Kiely pop-up shops are now open in all John Lewis shops and will remain open until  16 June 2013.