Monday, 9 July 2018

Orla Kiely- A Life in Pattern

'' I wouldn't wear that it looks like my Grandma's curtains! '' was the first of many comments I overheard at the Orla Kiely Exhibition currently on at The Fashion and Textile Museum in London.
    Well quite, I had to agree, the dress in question did look like it could have come from a kitchen window circa 1965. I on the other hand would quite happily wear it.
         Orla Kiely designs are very much Marmite; you either love them or hate them. They are however all around us. A hugely successful brand that is very much inspired by the 60's and 70's with it's over sized graphic prints. Orla's patterns now cover everything from the aforementioned dresses to home wares, cycle helmets and suitcases.
       The exhibition is a joy to wander around and fills the exhibition space perfectly. From an Alice in Wonderland moment to a wall of bags to an army of mannequins that seem to advance on you, the breadth of pattern and colour is fantastic. It shows off twenty years of her design studio which produces the simple but eye catching graphics.
       The exhibition is on until 23rd of September 2018 . Click this link here to find out about opening times . Beware the museum is shut on Mondays.

Stem pattern on back wall. 
 This back wall photo shows off Orla's now iconic pattern 'Stem' as well as some variations on it.
    I am sure many people would look at these patterns and wrongly murmur, 'I could do that, it's so simple'. Yes, it is simple but the skill comes in reinventing this pattern season after season in differing scales and colours with various tweaks on the original design.

Giant dress installation. 

                            This dress section on the right does not show it's full scale at all. This was taken in the Wonderland room where nine of her garments have been scaled up and remade into huge hanging installations. This one looks very much like it is made from a flocked wallpaper.

The embroidery on this beautiful bag is machine made but shows perfect design details; an over sized floral pattern in the background, a collection of insects lined up with a limited colour palette and a bright yellow bee flying in at a totally different angle. 

The embroidery on this bag, is worked by hand. The backing is a perforated leather with the cross stitches embroidered in wool. It is reminiscent of Victorian perforated paper cards. 

The wall of bags, an amazing array of colour, materials and textures. Changing year after year, making them the ultimate collectable for Orla fans.  

The advancing army of mannequins, with Grandma's curtains front and centre!

The giant dress installation, very hard to capture the scale but my friend Masako Newton is just wandering through to give you an idea. 

A bold mix of patterns, used to great dramatic effect. 

From a distance this just looks like an abstract pattern, it is only on close inspection that you see it a a repeat design of a swimmer. Deceptively clever designing. 


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