Orla Kiely shop, Covent Garden

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Sad to see the Orla Kiely shop all closed up yesterday after the news that she’s gone into voluntary administration earlier this week. I loved that place, the interior detailing and decor was always a pleasure to see, not to mention the objects they sold. Her retrospective at the Fashion & Textile Museum ends this weekend if you missed it. A true design icon, I hope she bounces back soon. Her home ware and licensed products will still be available in the bigger shops and her design practice remains but not the three shops or online store. It seems the decline of the pound and Brexit fears were part of the reason for the decision, how many more will we see close come this time next year?

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Orla Kiely at the Fashion & Textile Museum

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Orla Kiely can probably lay claim to having an item of clothing or home ware in most 30 to 40-something homes I’d wager. From the ubiquitous bags seen on every yummy mummy to the stem-printed jugs, jars, towels and bedspreads infiltrating kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms in any discerning middle class household, you see her patterns everywhere in all sorts of shades. Personally I’m not into flowery prints but Kiely continues to thrill me with her never-ending range of retro-modern colour palettes and there’s just enough for a male fan like myself to buy for the home without it looking too feminine. Her current retrospective at the Fashion & Textile Museum in Bermondsey is chock full of two decade’s worth of designs, a total Orla overload.

I love her patterns, preferring the more geometric ones with autumnal colour schemes.

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OK hallEntering the museum you’re confronted with huge flower prints and cases of bags, I couldn’t pull these off myself but love the pattern designs.

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Next are several corridors with an explosion of Kiely products for the home including pattern design concepts (some still forthcoming) kitchenware, toys, stationery, mugs, wallpaper, luggage, books… You name it, it’s there with an O.K. pattern on it. In their colour-coded glory it’s quite something to behold, you want to steal it all but a whole house of this would be overkill.

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The main room consists of huge versions of dresses, as if made for giants, guarded by life size rotating block models that shift outfits like a children’s mix and match book depending on their alignment. The oversize garments are offset by handmade dolls wearing the same outfits in miniature, lining the walls. This was an interesting concept in showing off a collection but it didn’t work for me after the complete overload of the previous corridors of kitchen and homeware. The wow factor was initially there but very little was contained in the biggest room on closer inspection, they’d crammed it all in the preceding space because they needed the height to show off the hanging frocks.

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Last but not least is a wall of bags, followed by a photo retrospective of various seasons and styles. Kiely has a great eye for modernising old 50s/60s and 70s styles and colour combinations whilst continually reinventing key logos and patterns from previous lines. It doesn’t always work but her hit rate is high and the body of work has a definite personality and flow to it that makes it unmistakably hers. I came away only wishing she’d one day hit the late 60s and do her take on psychedelia and flower power, what a riot that could be.

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Barbara Brown at the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester

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Just before I played my recent Selected Aphex Works AV set in Manchester recently I got the chance to nip out to the nearby Whitworth Gallery and see the Barbara Brown retrospective. She’s one of my favourite textile designers, embracing Op Art in her work for her 15 year run designing for Heals. The material was presented in huge rolls to stunning effect, it’s free entry and on until December, plus in the basement, there’s an equally beautiful Lucienne Day exhibition too (see other post).

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