Calm and considered, Orla Kiely radiates a collected presence as we sit upstairs in her Covent Garden store, surrounded by many of her designs. Known as the Queen of Prints, Orla started her fashion brand in 1995 and now her empire spans from the catwalk to candles, bed linen to beautiful bags.
Excited to show us some of her favourite pieces, we were was privileged to sit down with the Irish icon herself. We talk the secret of success, why it’s always important to follow your instincts, and more below…
Have you always wanted to create a jewellery line or has it been a relatively new idea?
In a way it was always something that I thought about; really it was about waiting for when the time was right. I very much liked Gecko when they came to talk to me and I knew that they would make jewellery that was of the kind of quality and style that I wanted and that was the most important thing. I didn’t want to do jewellery that I wouldn’t wear myself. Each of the pieces are quite heavy, substantial, they feel like quality pieces of jewellery, and that was very important. Also I wanted to drive it myself so it was very much how I would see the jewellery; quite bold and the colour had to be right and the enamelling had to have a certain kind of technique, it was all those kind of details that are quite small but together very important. I knew with Gecko that we would get to a good point.
As a successful business woman and mother can you share with us the secret to a work life balance?
I guess it’s lucky that I enjoy what I do, so it’s never hard for me in the morning to get up and go to work. My children are grown up now, but when they were younger it was always about juggling. But I always had great help, and I have had great teams working with me and people around to help me. In the end I think it’s hard to do it ALL on your own, and I think that’s when it can be a struggle for people. Having people around you that can help you is very important. Make sure you always have a great group of friends!
Great advice! Talking of advice what’s the best advice any one has ever given you?
Be yourself! And I think that is really important, because as soon as you try to do something that’s not really you it falls flat on its face. And that’s why all designers have their strengths and styles, and I wouldn’t want to try and do or be someone I am not. In the end I know what I can do and what I am good at, and that is important.
Since the inception of your brand what has been the biggest challenge that you have faced and how did you overcome it?
There are ongoing challenges; and I think with challenges what you have to do is get through them. There is no challenge that cannot be overcome – so you know with all the challenges that we’ve had over the last 20 years, and there has been many, we’ve never let them beat us. We couldn’t take no for an answer we had to be resilient and just get through. We had to come up with good ideas and be clever and that’s really how you have to cope. Be creative – that is always the key to overcoming challenges.
How would you describe your own home style?
As you can see in my book HOME, I do have my own designs present in my interior to a degree (flicks’ through the book and shows us the beautiful photographs of her home – very chic and beautifully styled with just a hint of her own designs. A few cushions on a sofa, a feature wall of her iconic print wallpaper…) it’s not full of my stuff. There’s lots of little colour splashes. I LOVE Mid-Century design and vintage pieces, and I love the odd Scandinavian designed piece. I have little bits of G Plan furniture. I love wood surfaces – there’s my wallpaper, so my designs aren’t everywhere but there are definitely splashes. And there is my dog (Orla beams at the site of her dog Olive) – she is a labradoodle. I love colour – and I do think bold statements of colour are nice, like here I have a green floor and a yellow wall… I think it’s really important to be brave with your house. Actually, we were just painting this whole sitting room, is now grey- a super dark grey. And, I had two shades of grey up and I kind of chickened out, and said you know let’s do the light grey and actually as soon as one room was done I thought no, you know what you have to go for it. Now it’s all dark grey and it just looks so chic, and all colour popping off the dark grey – it’s beautiful.
So what would be your top tip on revamping a living room?
I would say follow your instincts, so don’t shy away from doing what you really want to do. Because I think that’s the problem, most people kind of cool it down, you know they get a bit afraid and it becomes a compromise again. So I just think if you have a weekend to paint you can always paint it over if you don’t like it and you can always live with it for a little while. So I think essentially my advice is just go for it.
How would you spend your perfect day off? Oo long walks, as long as it’s sunny – I don’t mind it being cold but I need to have the blue sky. I love long walks; and then a nice lunch with the dogs and my husband, and my boys if they wanted to come. Just a nice leisurely day, and then going to a gallery or an exhibition is always nice. So maybe the exhibition in the morning then the lunch and then the walk!
Do you have a particular favourite gallery here in London?
I mean I love the Royal Academy, I love Tate Britain – it depends what exhibitions are on or what’s happening.
Do you have any particular designers across any field that you admire and have looked up to throughout your career?
I would say Prada, because she is amazing! Everything she does, and she has been going quite a long time now since the ’90s, so she is very inspiring and creative. Also I love lots of the designers from the ’50s and ’60s, I love looking at old photography, film and design from the ’60s.
What’s in store for the rest of 2016 – are there any exciting upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
We have new season collections coming out which I think are really exciting. And that’s the ongoing thing – and of course the jewellery we will carry on with. I mean I get bored very quickly so I always want to keep refreshing and renewing, the new seasons are what’s exciting.