Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern

This summer the Fashion and Textile Museum is hosting an exhibition ‘A Life in Pattern’ showcasing the work of Orla Kiely

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This is the first exhibition to feature her work. She set up her company in 1995 after graduating from the RCA . Before that she worked as a textile designer for the company Esprit. After leaving the RCA she produced a small collection of accessories for Harrods. Originally she was producing hats. After attending a trade show with Orla, her father suggested she venture into producing bags, as he had noticed that he hadn’t seen a single woman wearing a hat but they were all carrying bags!

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Her work is inspired by the patterns of the 1950’s and 1960’s, by designers such as Mary Quant, Shirley Craven and Lucienne Day. IMG_1455

Nature is the most significant inspiration for her designs. Each design is developed carefully by drawing and refining the essential organic elements that are the foundation of her repeating designs.

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The exhibition is presented thematically rather than chronologically, and explores all aspects of Orla’s creative output, from lifestyle and fashion ranges to use of colour and detail and the geometry of pattern.

The exhibition draws on an archive of over 20 years work, offering visitors incite into her methods and concepts, exploring sketches, mood boards samples and a range of techniques.

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The exhibition charts the growth and success of the Orla Kiely brand from her first hats presented in London Fashion Week 1994 through the advent of the iconic Orla Kiely bag in the mid nineties to her freelance work for department stores undertaken from her kitchen table in 1998IMG_1472
Orla’s patterns work on any scale, and the exhibition brings a playful element with super sized dresses alongside tiny dolls in replica dresses.

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Her dresses and bags are displayed on the mezzanine floor. What strikes one after a while is that the work has evolved and is still evolving. Pieces from different collections and different years, work well together. IMG_1457

The work is beautiful, original, well thought out made to the highest standards. The exhibition is a must see. It has been put together by Dennis Nothdruff Head of Exhibitions at Fashion and Textile museum and by Mary Schoeser Exhibition curator and Textile historian. There is an excellent book published by Conran Octopus called A Life in Pattern that I shall be reviewing soon on the blog.

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