Orla Kiely recently launched her eco travel mug in collaboration with Kenco Millicano, setting her pattern-making skills to the task of creating this limited edition bold and colourful eco mug, which will be available from mid-August. Here we caught up with this maverick of colour and pattern to talk fashion, installations and David Bowie.
How do you take your coffee? I prefer to take mine black without sugar. I need a strong coffee first thing in the morning to get me going, and my travel mug gives me a great excuse to drink more coffee.
What attracted you to this project with Kenco Millicano? It’s nice to do something outside of the norm. When they came to us I liked their credentials, I liked the environmental side of things, and I liked the product. It’s a good thing you know. All the coffee shops and all the paper cups, can you imagine the waste? Just the trees involved to make all of those cups! And also they were very happy that there would be no compromise and it was very much free. And of course we took into consideration their brand and their colours, but they all worked for us too.
As a big designer you have a platform now from which to voice your opinions and you often champion environmental issues. Talk about that. I suppose the message is for everyone to try to just do their bit. And again we should just make the effort and not be lazy about it.
How dogmatic are you about it? I’m not dogmatic. I’m not vegan or vegetarian, we buy organic and recycle, but it’s all pretty simple.
Your patterns have become so iconic and world famous. Like every designer item, the pattern has begun to symbolise something more than itself, it becomes a status symbol. How does that idea sit with you? I don’t know that they have become a status symbol. If people are buying them it’s because they like them, they enjoy having them. In the end it’s nice to see people having these things as part of their lives.
Have people returned to pattern and colour? Yeah, I think it’s one of those things that can make you feel good, can make you smile. I certainly think the pattern we do is kind of a happy thing.
You’ve designed clothes, accessories, homeware, cars and now this new travel mug – what medium do you prefer for pattern? I love fashion and our accessories, to me that’s what drives it and that’s how we develop new pattern. Every season we’d do four or five new prints within some kind of theme. And then from that bank we can take prints that will work right across the categories, not all prints will, not all fashion prints will work into every other area. But I think it’s important to build that archive.
You don’t have a preferred form to design for? In fashion I really like simple, clean lines. I love patterns in fashion, I love a nice printed dress, it’s kind of cool. That’s what’s new to us, but then to be able to see it in the home is great, I’m always inspired by ’60’s vintage homewares. So you know to be able to do a range of kitchen storage jars or a wallpaper is very exciting. It’s a buzz when you feel you’ve got them looking good.
You never do conventional launches for your fashion label, they’re always framed as an installation or pop-up shop, why is that? I think the presentation of things is very important, and to give as much of a flavour of what it is, is a creative thing. All the fashion presentations we do are from an artistic angle, and they are a bit of fun. We do it in a small way, but then you go and see something like a Louis Vuitton show and that isn’t just fashion anymore, that’s art, it’s a whole installation.
Have you been to any good exhibitions of late? No, but the one I have to go and see because I’m fascinated, is the David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and I haven’t had a chance. I am a Bowie fan, he’s so amazing. And his style, he’s still so cool.
What’s the last song you played for yourself? Gosh, I can’t remember. But my youngest son has really great taste in music. Oh, but I love Joni Mitchell – we were just listening to her for the fashion shoot. I mean some of those songs, God – they’re just so timeless. And my son has just discovered her.
You now run the creative side of a big company that hires lots of designers and apprentices in a highly competitive environment. How do you deal with that master-apprentice dynamic? Well, I think you’ve got to appreciate that everyone has a different take, no two designers will do the same thing. We’re very lucky, the people I work with are great, and I am open to all sorts of ideas. It goes two ways, we have a very nice atmosphere in our team. Of course the last decision is mine, but if someone comes up with a good idea then great, we go with that. I am definitely a team person.
Do you get tired of being identified as an ‘Irish designer’ when you’re back here? No, I’ve been living in London for almost 20 years and I love it, but I do absolutely identify as being Irish, born and raised.
What item are you particularly proud of from the A/W 2013 collection? I think we’ve got the best coats ever this winter. We did a shearling, sort of Royal Tenenbaums’ Margot coat, and it’s just lovely. We’ve got a lot of tailored wool coats, and I’m very proud of those.
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna