Why not put add add a bit of fun to a yoga block? Perhaps that’s a (rhetorical) question asked during the creation of Orla Kiely’s Fall 2014 Target collaboration in which the designer’s signature petal print appears on fitness items like yoga mats, blocks, bags, and water bottles.
Contributing Writer, Angela Bayout
Best known for her floral prints inspired by 60s and 70s kitsch, Orla Kiely infuses playfulness and fun femininity into everyday fashion without sacrificing sophistication. Since 1997, after she and her husband established the brand without must planning, Orla Kiely has touched everything from kitsch-inspired kitchenware to cars, has been delighting ‘Fashion Rookies,’ Furstenberg devotees, and yogis alike, and has always had fun on the runway.
The Irish-born, UK-based creative began as a milliner before switching to handbags in the late 1990s after being urged by her father who informed her that no one wore hats anymore. Beyond applying her delightful pattern ideas, Kiely differentiated her handbags with laminated fabric reminiscent of retro tablecloths–a fitting benefit considering the look and feel that she’d eventually make her mark with. The cheerfully patterned bags cover a range of the wearer’s life through a workhorse messenger, a hand-held travel pouch, an everyday sling, and a handbag that would look marvelous dangling next to a 3/4 sleeve.
Tapping into her experience in wallpaper design and influenced by her grandmother, Kiely perfected her petal permutations. Orla Kiely’s earthy palette eases with olive, tan, navy, goldenrod and lights up a room with powder room pink, spring green, and rich orange. The patterns, usually inspired by bulbous, Pop Art daisies, are always perky but never flashy, presenting a perfect balance of flirtation and mod. It’s a Brady girl, Twiggy, and Mary Tyler Moore wrapped up in a bouquet of YES.
Her shows, too, indulge in the inherent playfulness without going over the top. Always a performance, her shows make the traditional runway show seem militaristic. Kiely sets her presentations in libraries as in Fall/Winter 2015, an African Savannah diorama as in Spring 2014, or a mid-century office and engages her models in activities like old school typing complete with bouffants as in the remarkable 2013 Fall/Winter collection presentation (please check this out on YouTube), or mini golf, as in the recent Spring 2016 ready to wear presentation at London Fashion Week. Her models smile, celebrate a surprise hole-in-one, and go with the flow for they’re part modeling, part being themselves.
Meanwhile, the 2016 resort collection is oddly Amish-inspired and nearly gothic, highlighting the Kiely girl as a black sheep poolside, a label she’s likely quite comfortable with. Edges of sweetness appear in a white, pressed Peter Pan collar and a dash of Piccadilly circa 1969.
Kiely’s clothes are for real people who aren’t afraid to wear their hearts on their sleeves–which in her case often happens to be a tailored cuff fastened by a shank button on a billowy blouse that your cubicle cohorts will covet.
Are you coveting Kiely’s creations? Share you thoughts on this designer on Twitter @therunwayplus.