Orla Kiely on Kate Middleton, Mad Men and Making Pretty Prints
London-based, Irish-born designer Orla Kiely has splashed her signature witty prints on clothing, stationery, home goods and much more. But despite the fact that her cheery patterns are known and loved by the likes of Alexa Chung, Kiera Knightley, Kirsten Dunst and one Kate Middleton, the designer had never taken part in New York Fashion Week—until today. Rather than show at Lincoln Center or a downtown gallery space, Kiely chose to hold her first-ever presentation in her label's first-ever freestanding U.S. boutique, located on Mercer Street in SoHo. It was a perfectly playful debut: Pimm's Cups were passed around, Tennessee Thomas spun reto-style tunes, and an Orla Kiely-patterned mini-RV was parked at the back of the shop. Inside the vehicle, Kiely's new fashion film, in which Leith Clark styled model Hannah Holman in looks from the designer's spring collection, played on loop.
In between admiring the racks of fresh spring dresses and greeting Au Revoir Simone's Erika Spring (who provided the music for Kiely's short film), we pulled the designer aside for a chat.
Lucky: Let's start with the basics. What inspired you this season?
Orla Kiely: We were inspired by the 1960s Riviera. We were kind of thinking about Raul Difi—his paintings, his imagery. But then we were also looking at Slim Aarons...and that really came through when we decide to make our film in Palm Springs.
What was it like shooting there?
It was amazing—I'd never been before! It was about 46 degrees [Celsius] when we got there—so, so hot.
Kate Middleton's been spotted many times in your dresses. That must be amazing for business!
It's been fantastic. Obviously when you get a beautiful girl like that wearing your clothes—and I mean, wanting to wear them—that's the most exciting thing. We've been incredibly lucky.
You've also dressed Alexa Chung and Keira Knighley. Is there any particular celebrity you get really, truly excited about when you hear she's a fan of yours?
Zooey Deschanel apparently likes the brand, and she's very cute. So that's quite exciting!
From the old-school wooden television set in the corner to the stacks of books and wallpaper prints everywhere, your store—and your whole aesthetic, really—is so reminiscent of Mad Men. Any chance you watch the show?
I love the show—I love it. I'm a huge fan. I've always been a fan of that era—the midcentury '50s, '60s, '70s. I meander between those three decades in my work, really.
In terms of this collection, are there any pieces that are particularly close to your heart?
There are a couple I really love. I'm especially excited about the seascape prints we did, the beach scenes.
Do you create all these prints yourself?
Yes, I do! That's actually my background, print design. I've been doing it for years, so it comes very naturally at this point.
Click through for a taste of Orla Kiely's Spring 2013 collection. All photos courtesy of Orla Kiely.
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