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Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern (Touring)

Start Date 07 February 2019
End Date 29 June 2019
Venue Dovecot Studios
Location Edinburgh, UK
Curator Dennis Nothdruft and Mary Schoeser
Exhibition display of garments suspended in the air
‘Pattern is not a trend for me, to be taken up one minute and abandoned the next when the winds of fashion change. Pattern is in me. It is my life.’
Orla Kiely

Dovecot Studios is bringing the first exhibition dedicated to celebrated designer Orla Kiely to Scotland in February 2019. Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern will explore all aspects of Orla’s creative output, from lifestyle and fashion ranges to use of colour and detail and the geometry of pattern. Inspired by the upbeat exuberance of the 1960s, a love of Irish and Scandinavian architecture and mid-century design, Orla Kiely’s designs have grown from humble beginnings in the 1990s to become a global phenomenon.

The exhibition will draw on Kiely’s archives, offering visitors unparalleled insight into her methods and concepts, with sketches, mood boards, and samples spanning 20 years of work. The exhibition will also take a more personal turn, exploring Orla’s childhood in Ireland and the way this environment informed her creative work. Rare family photographs and ephemera will be displayed alongside Orla’s earliest designs.

A whole wall of handbags and a carefully curated selection of outfits will showcase Orla Kiely’s work in fashion.

The creativity and joyfulness of her clothing attracted women like Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Visitors will also have the opportunity to meet Kiely in person: Dovecot Studios has organised an ‘In Conversation With’ event, where Kiely will answer questions from the audience.

Around 200 tickets will be available for an exclusive preview evening also.

Kate Grenyer, Dovecot’s exhibitions curator, said: “This exhibition will turn Dovecot Gallery into a playful, immersive experience where visitors can be absorbed in the kaleidoscopic colours and rhythms of Orla Kiely’s world of pattern.”

“Nature is the single most significant inspiration for pattern designers throughout history and Orla is no exception. Each design is developed carefully, by drawing and refining the essential organic elements that are the foundations of her repeating patterns – the natural world rendered more abstract and graphic. Her pared-down plant shapes and animal designs reveal an artful simplicity that captures only the essential aspects of the form.”

Celia Joicey, director of Dovecot, said: “Dovecot Studios is bringing Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern to Scotland to highlight the contagious popularity of a brand that has captured the zeitgeist for pattern and colour in 21st century design. “As a tapestry studio, textiles are a way of life at Dovecot and we look forward to exploring the importance of textile to Orla Kiely as a medium for self-expression and the foundation of a global business.”

Orla Kiely: A Life in Pattern was originally curated by Dennis Nothdruft, Head of Exhibitions and the Fashion and Textile Museum and renowned textile historian Mary Schoeser. The exhibition is organised at Dovecot Studios in collaboration with the Fashion and Textile Museum, London.



Fashion and Textile Museum, London | 25 May – 23 September 2018

Winchester Discovery Centre, Winchester, UK | 12 October 2019 – 5 January 2020

Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh, UK | 7 February – 29 June 2019

Norwich University East Gallery, Norwich, UK | 30 October 2018 – 5 January 2018

Image courtesy of Dovecot Studios