Behind The Design: Orla Kiely

Good snowy evening!!

We have 6-8″ of snow in Richmond tonight, and baby it’s cold!!! It has been a wonderful snow day, or a “stay at home” day as my aunt says up in Buffalo, NY. It actually didn’t feel like I was cooped up at home very much today. I did draw out the morning with this delicious breakfast of French toast, scrambled eggs, pan-seared bananas, topped with PB and maple syrup. Hit the spot!


After sweeping, literally, the powdery snow off my car, I ventured over to the Fan to visit my sister-in-law and nephew Liam. They were excited for a visitor and even shared some Snow Cream with me! 🙂

After my walk, I showered, did some light cleaning, then hunkered down to write this post that is all about Orla Kiely!

Known as the “Queen of Prints”, I first discovered Orla Kiely’s designs when I purchased the first handbag shown below at my first ever job at Anthropologie. I remember buying the bag like it was yesterday. I loved everything about it. The print, the design, and even the details on the grosgrain handles. It was love at first purchase, and I’ve been hooked on Orla ever since.

Kiely 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. 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.”

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. Orla was consulting for other companies and designing her own collection at the weekend, which she would give to me to organise. 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!”

(Orla Kiely and Dermott Rowan’s home courtesy of http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/)


Orla Kiely showed in London Fashion Week and secured her first export orders. The following year, they took the collection to Premiere Class.

Kiely has two different handbag collections. One is called ETC, the every day collection, and the other is Main Line, the more sophisticated bag. The three Orla Kiely bags that I have collected over the span of 10 years, are from the ETC line, and they have certainly been carried with love!

The almost two-decade old prints have expanded from handbags, to apparel, stationary, and even wallpaper. I swoon. I would love to line a powder room in Kiely’s Classic Stem print paper, or cover an accent wall in an office with this Cross-Hatch stem print.



Like many other contemporary designers, Kiely is even designing for Target! From kitchenware, to soap, yoga mats, and even water bottles, Kiely’s designs have become very accessible. Sometimes when designers partner with Target, I feel like the novelty wares off from the original design, and I’m purchasing a “knock-off” product, but I do own four of the salad plates from Orla’s growing collection for Target (I used one for my epic breakfast this morning ;), and I have not been disappointed! I really want one of these water bottles!

I hope to continue adding to my collection of Orla Kiely’s designs, whether it’s another handbag – this one is on sale!! Or through something as simple as a door mat.


 Today, Kiely’s business operates out of a three-storey building in Clapham, South London, near her home. Her studio occupies the middle floor, chosen specifically because of the availability of light.

You bet the next time I travel to London, the Queen of Prints will be one of my first stops!

Stay warm!!




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