Orla Kiely – Wikipedia

Irish fashion designer

Orla Kiely, OBE (born 1963) is an Irish fashion designer based in London. She began her career designing hats, and moved on to design work on handbags and a variety of other items including kitchenware and cars. She received a master’s degree from the Royal College of Art. She worked with several companies before setting up her own business.

Kiely Rowan PLC, the retail and wholesale entity operating the fashion business under Kiely’s name, ceased trading on 17 September 2018, but has continued selling through its distribution partners.[1]


Kiely credits her grandmother with being the creative influence in her life. Her father was an accountant; her mother studied science before being forced to give up work by her employers after she married.[2]

Kiely qualified as a textile designer at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and moved to New York to work for a wallpaper and fabric designer.[3] She moved to England to work for Esprit while studying for a master’s degree at the Royal College of Art in London,[4] primarily in knitwear.[3] In her exit show at the RCA, she displayed a range of hats which were purchased by Harrods. She did design work for Marks & Spencer and Habitat.[4]

She began designing handbags and hats after her father noted during her first London Fashion Week that everyone was carrying a handbag, but no one was wearing a hat.[5] 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.”[3]

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. Kiely was consulting for other companies and designing her own collection at the weekend, which she would give to me to organize. 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!”[4] Kiely showed in London Fashion Week and secured her first export orders. The following year, they took the collection to Premiere Class.[6]

She has been awarded the title of Visiting Professor of Textiles at the Royal College of Art and was made a Senior Fellow in 2016.[2]

In June 2014, Kiely was awarded an honorary degree from the University for the Creative Arts.[citation needed] In 2015, Kiely was made an Honorary Fellow of the British Institute of Design. She also was made an Honorary Doctor of Norwich University of the Arts.[citation needed]

Design work[edit]

Kiely design work on the back of a London bus

Kiely has been described by The Guardian as “the Queen of Prints.”[7] Her designs have been used for a variety of objects, including kitchenware,[8]stationery, furniture,[4]wallpaper,[2] and a range of Citroën DS3 cars.[9]

She has also designed a refillable water bottle called the “Wottle”, which is a collaboration with the water filter company Brita. The bottle features her green-stem design and is made from high-density polyethylene, a recyclable plastic material, and produced by a company in Suffolk.[10]

Her business operates out of a studio in Pimlico, London.

She has completed two publications entitled Home and Pattern, both published by Conran Octopus. She released a third publication, A Life in Pattern, in early 2018 to coincide with her exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in May.

Personal life[edit]

Keily is married to Dermott Rowan: they have two
sons Robert & Hamish.[11][7]

In popular culture[edit]

In July 2010 Kiely was one of six contemporary, internationally renowned Irish fashion designers featured on a set of Irish postage stamps issued by An Post. The other designers featured were Paul Costelloe, Louise Kennedy, John Rocha, Philip Treacy and Lainey Keogh.[12] Kiely’s stamp was an 82c stamp bearing her name in large orange letters at the top along with an image of a handbag with her leaf design against a white background.[11]

Her fashion line has been worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge,[13][14] and celebrities including Kirsten Dunst[4] and Alexa Chung.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ “Orla Kiely to close retail and online businesses”. RTÉ. 19 September 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b c Jenkinson, Emily (2 September 2010). “Pattern by Orla Kiely”. thegoodwebguide.co.uk. Archived from the original on 26 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Burt, Kate (22 October 2010). “Cutting-edge patterns: Kiely’s unique designs have made her interiors label a massive global brand”. The Independent. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e Walshe, Barbara. “Orla Kiely: The Irish Charm”. couttswoman.com. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011.
  5. ^ Emling, Shelley (5 June 2009). “A designer’s gift for understatement”. New York Times. Retrieved 7 February 2022.(subscription required)
  6. ^ “The Afternoon Show, RTÉ One”. RTÉ News. 10 November 2008. Archived from the original on 18 September 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  7. ^ a b Abrahams, Charlotte (10 May 2009). “My Space”. The Guardian. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  8. ^ Hart, Carolyn (25 October 2010). “Food news: Hallowe’en cupcake decorations, Orla Kiely’s kitchenware, and more…” The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  9. ^ Chapman, Matthew (14 January 2011). “Citroën brings in Orla Kiely for limited edition DS3 model”. mad.co.uk. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011.
  10. ^ Shepard, Anna (12 September 2008). “Green living: can Orla Kiely wean us off bottled water?”. The Times. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008.
  11. ^ a b De Rosa, Sophie (27 September 2010). “World of: Orla Kiely, designer”. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  12. ^ “Magnificent Irish fashionista stamps”. World Stamp News. 18 July 2010. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014.
  13. ^ Wasilak, Sarah (28 October 2015). “Kate Middleton Wore This Exact Outfit 3 Years Ago, and It Still Looks Just as Good”. PopSugar. Retrieved 7 February 2022.
  14. ^ Hilliard, Mark (18 September 2018). “Orla Kiely closes retail and online businesses”. The Irish Times. Retrieved 7 February 2022.