Orla Kiely

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Orla Kiely
Born 1963 (age 54–55)
Residence London, England
Nationality Irish
Other names The Ultimate Artist
Education Masters' degree
Alma mater Royal College of Art
Occupation Fashion designer
Home town Dublin, Ireland
Spouse(s) Dermott Rowan
Children Robert and Hamish
Awards Irish Tatler Woman of the Year
UK Fashion Export Awards (twice)
UK Fashion Export Gold Award
Website www.orlakiely.com

Orla Kiely, OBE (born 1963), is an Irish fashion designer based in London. She began her career designing hats, and moved on to design work on handbags and a variety of other items including kitchenware and cars. She received a master's degree from the Royal College of Art. She worked with several companies before setting up her own business.


Orla Kiely shop, Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London

Kiely credits her grandmother with being the creative influence in her life. Her father was an accountant; her mother studied science before being forced to give up work by her employers after she married.[1]

Kiely qualified as a textile designer at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and moved to New York to work for a wallpaper and fabric designer.[2] She moved to England to work for Esprit while studying for a Master's at the Royal College of Art in London,[3] primarily in knitwear.[2] In her exit show at the RCA, she displayed a range of hats which were purchased by Harrods. She did design work for Marks & Spencer and Habitat.[3]

She began designing handbags after her father noted during her first London Fashion Week that everyone was carrying a handbag, but no one was wearing a hat.[4] In the late 1990s, she had the idea to laminate cloth for handbags: "At the time, no one was doing anything like it. Laminated fabric, in those days, meant tablecloths."[2]

Together with her husband, Dermott Rowan, she formed The Orla Kiely Partnership in 1997. Her husband explained in an interview, "Nothing was planned, the whole thing started by accident. Kiely was consulting for other companies and designing her own collection at the weekend, which she would give to me to organize. We had this chaotic situation where deliveries of her designs would come into our apartment and if I didn't get them out by 5pm, there was nowhere to sit!"[3] Kiely showed in London Fashion Week and secured her first export orders. The following year, they took the collection to Premiere Class.[5]

She has been awarded the title of Visiting Professor of Textiles at the Royal College of Art and was made a Senior Fellow in 2016.[1]

In June 2014, Kiely was awarded an honorary degree from the University for the Creative Arts[6]

In 2015, Orla was made an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute of Design. She also was made an Honorary Doctor of Norwich University of the Arts.

Design work

Kiely design work on the back of a London bus

Kiely was described by The Guardian as "the Queen of Prints."[7] Her designs have been used for a variety of objects, including kitchenware,[8] stationery, furniture,[3] wallpaper,[1] and a range of Citroën DS3 cars. The cars feature Kiely's design work on the roofs, tailgate and a signature in the middle of the rear spoiler. The interior features pattern work on the carpet mats and on the seat headrests.[9]

She has also designed a refillable water bottle called the "Wottle", which is a collaboration with the water filter company Brita. The bottle features her green-stem design and is made from high-density polyethylene, a recyclable plastic material, and produced by a company in Suffolk.[10]

Her business operates out of a studio in Pimlico, London.

She has completed two publications entitled 'Home' and 'Pattern' both published by Conran Octopus. She will release a third publication name 'A Life in Pattern' in early 2018 to coincide with her exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in May.

Personal life

She is married to Dermott Rowan, and they have two sons, Robert and Hamish. They own a Labradoodle named Olive.[11][7]

In popular culture

In July 2010 Kiely was one of six contemporary, internationally renowned Irish fashion designers featured on a set of Irish postage stamps issued by An Post. The other designers featured were Paul Costelloe, Louise Kennedy, John Rocha, Philip Treacy and Lainey Keogh.[12] Kiely's stamp was an 82c stamp bearing her name in large orange letters at the top along with an image of a handbag with her leaf design against a white background.[11]

Her fashion line has been worn by celebrities including Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge,[13] Kirsten Dunst,[3] and Alexa Chung.



  1. ^ a b c Jenkinson, Emily (2 September 2010). "Pattern by Orla Kiely". thegoodwebguide.co.uk. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Burt, Kate (22 October 2010). "Cutting-edge patterns: Kiely's unique designs have made her interiors label a massive global brand". The Independent. London. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Walshe, Barbara. "Orla Kiely: The Irish Charm". Coutts Women. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Emling, Shelley (5 June 2009). "A designer's gift for understatement". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "The Afternoon Show, RTÉ One". RTÉ News. 10 November 2008. 
  6. ^ http://www.ucreative.ac.uk/news/2014/june/three-new-honorary-graduates-announced#.VK_8siusXpU
  7. ^ a b Abrahams, Charlotte (10 May 2009). "My Space". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Food news: Hallowe'en cupcake decorations, Orla Kiely's kitchenware, and more..." The Telegraph. London. 25 October 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  9. ^ Chapman, Matthew (14 January 2011). "Citroën brings in Orla Kiely for limited edition DS3 model". Mad.co.uk. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  10. ^ Shepard, Anna (12 September 2008). "Green living: can Orla Kiely wean us off bottled water?". The Times. London. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  11. ^ a b De Rosa, Sophie (27 September 2010). "World of: Orla Kiely, designer". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  12. ^ "Magnificent Irish fashionista stamps". World Stamp News. 18 July 2010. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  13. ^ Wasilak, Sarah. "Kate Middleton Wore This Exact Outfit 3 Years Ago, and It Still Looks Just as Good". POPSUGAR. Retrieved 29 August 2017. 
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