Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern
- Arabella Bradley
- 22 February 2019
Eclectic collection of projects, prints and collaborations from the Irish fashion designer
Orla Kiely is primarily known as a fashion and textiles designer, launching her career in 1995 with a commission from Harrods for a range of wool felted hats. Whilst the new exhibition at the Dovecot remains fashion-focused, it also showcases the incredible range of collaborations and projects she has undertaken across all aspects of design, from limited-edition book covers for literary classics like Little Women, to a car interior for Citroen.
Inspired by the bold designs of the 1960s and 70s, especially those she saw around her own home growing up in Ireland during these years, Kiely's designs have come to be instantly recognisable with their bold colour palette, repeat patterns and illustrative take on natural forms. Kiely says 'At the heart of everything I design is pattern', which explains why there are currently over 500 variations of prints in the company's archive.
The exhibition opens with an eclectic display of Kiely's designs featured on home accessories, books, wearable items and more, all of which are displayed on shelves that wouldn't look out of place in a mid-century kitchen, backed by one of Kiely's many wallpaper designs. The main exhibition space pays homage to her achievements in fashion, with a selection of womenswear items and the accompanying campaign photos. The attention to detail throughout the exhibition is striking: a whole room filled with Kiely's own sketchbooks laid out with corresponding fabric swatches and photographs; even the chairs throughout the exhibition space are mid-century style with recognisable Orla Kiely upholstery.
As well as the objects and garments, there's a colour-coded wall of handbags from every season since the brand was born, lookbook videos, campaign photos, even giant dresses (a definite highlight), and interactive spinning dolls which have huge appeal to younger visitors, making this a varied, fun retrospective of one of the most well-loved and accomplished designers of our time.
Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern, Dovecot Studios, until Sat 29 Jun.