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Orla Kiely at The Fashion and Textile Museum: ‘A Life in Pattern’

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Last week on my birthday, after much anticipation I visited the Orla Kiely exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. It was so inspirational a feeding ground for ideas, I was in designer heaven!



Whilst studying Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art, during my final year Orla Kiely came and worked on a Knitted Bag project. Below is the brief for the project from 1998! Alongside are some images of the samples I made out of knitted wire with cotton.

Orla was working at Marks and Spencer’s designing knitwear and just about to leave and concentrate fully on her brand. As a student I looked on in awe, feeling the excitement of following her dreams. As a result, I have keenly followed her brand through the years, and hence was so excited to hear she had a solo exhibition. 

You would know her designs anywhere, the ‘Stem’ design is obviously the iconic and well seen pattern available across many products. Something so simple but defined has great longevity. Also, her love of the 60’s and 70’s is a thread that is evident across her work.

For me it’s predominantly been her bag designs I have followed. The photo below shows the wall of bags she has produced over the years.

Orla say’s ‘I love the fact a handbag can transform a look’ Her bags certainly can! Each bag brings fabric and colour combinations with stitch detail to perfection.

She also designs four collections of fashion a year and her designs grace multiple genres of homeware.


What was clear is that her vision has always been original and focused. Her style, quality and design hasn’t been compromised in an ever-changing world of fast fashion.

This exhibition has inspired me to go back to my roots and design a new bag, so keep an eye out for it!


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