For the purposes of this research point I have been asked to find examples of any designer/high street brands that are characterised by their use of print and pattern. The two that instantly came to mind were; Cath Kidston and Orla Kiely.
I’ve been asked to consider this question when looking at the brands;
Do you think this (use of print and pattern) is primarily about aesthetic considerations or is it in part an attempt to create an identifiable brand that can then extend to other products such as fashion accessories, household items etc?
When considering how to approach this research project. the first thing I began to do was look for examples of Orla Kiely’s work and how that might provide evidence to answer the question above. It doesn’t take much digging around to find plenty of examples where certain shapes, or forms emerge in patterns across several different formats from; women’s fashion, to candles, to home furnishings and kitchen goods.
I decided to focus on one pattern or form which found different expressions across a variety of goods, textiles and non textiles. I picked the ‘Wallflower pattern’, seen in the photo below:
This ‘Wallflower’ motif is seen across a range of collections, seasons and kinds of products. In the series of photographs below you’ll see examples where Orla Kiely has really adapted and kept the print interesting by playing with different scale motif’s, varying colour and application onto different kinds of surfaces.
My personal favourite application of the ‘Wallflower’ pattern is the application in a orange/red colour on women’s wear for fair-trade fashion pioneer’s People Tree.
The scale of the pattern has been reduced on the bag opposite to create a greater repeat for the pattern.
The introduction of the yellow/creme colour in the shape of the flower adds a contrast to the navy blue which keeps things feeling fresh and simple at the same time.
On the Candle ( see photo on left) colour has been add in a sophisticated on trend slate grey. Kiely has manipulate the scale of the ‘wallflower’ here, making the shape larger emphasises the form of the shape for a bolder appearance. The effect is I think fitting for a candle which you want to add interest to a room without appearing too busy (a small repeated pattern might have that effect).
By highlighting the flower shape in white another form within the whole shape becomes apparent and breaks up the grey overall.
For the duvet cover (left), the wallflower pattern has been scaled up again to create a large repeating pattern. The ochre or mustard yellow colour gives a retro graphic quality to the print overall. Here there’s an sense of use of negative space too as the flower head is white and recedes into the white background of the cover. I think the use of the negative space in using white helps stop the print from becoming too busy or making it hard for the eye to settle. In a bedroom a sense of calm or rest is probably a good idea so this simple bold repeated pattern works well.
I think the melamine jug pattern (left) is the most retro looking application of the wallflower motif. The mustard coloured background provides contrast next to the white body or stem of the wallflower. Another two colours are added by the pink flower head, and grey circle. These colours feel justified when applied to a surface or product (melamine) which has a strong association with the 1970’s and all things retro.
In my final example of application the wallflower motif is seen in a small, closely repeating pattern on women’s garments (see photo left). I think this works well partly due to the limited colour palette, the use of two shade of red/pink and a contrasting grey circle for the flower head.
I wanted to include examples of Orla Kiely’s collaboration with People Tree as I feel this is in part evidence of activities which help build a sense of brand, by bringing greater brand awareness by reaching different groups of people (in this case ethical shoppers). There’s a link to two video’s about her collaboration with People Tree in Spring Summer 2014 & Spring Summer 2015 below:
And for a final measure a couple of images from previous People Tree collections against examples of pattern or print found in Orla Kiely’s book ‘Pattern’:
Orla Kiely has had several collaborations with Uniqlo, a collaboration with Clarks to create a shoe range in 2014 and an unusual collaboration with Halfords; Olive and Orange, a range of bikes, tents and outdoors equipment with her signature prints.
Orla Kiely’s willingness to use print and pattern on a broad range of surfaces and in collaborations strikes me as more of a brand approach than an purely aesthetic or artistic venture.
I didn’t think my word alone, or my observations of her collaborations are evidence enough of there being a concerted effort to create an identifiable brand. So I did a little bit more research to find some kind of interview in which Orla Kiely discussed these kinds of considerations. I found a suitable interview on the Drapers Business website. I had to sign up for 12 weeks free access so I’m not sure if this link will be accessible to others but nevertheless its; The Drapers Interview; The World of Orla Kiely by Graeme Moran, 9 Dec 2015.
It’s certainly clear in this interview that not only is Orla Kiely regarded as a brand by those within the industry (she won Drapers Premium Brand of the Year award in 2015) she is also happy to discuss the business as a brand herself. She refers to colour and pattern as ‘the two cornerstones of what we do’. Moran says “unwavering focus on her signature quirky style has enabled the 53-year old designer to build her name from small handbag collection into a flourishing business with global reach”.
On the subject of her collaboration’s Moran says, “while there have been numerous collaborations that have seen her signature patterns appear across a range of products, they’ve always been beneficial to the growth of her brand”. Orla Kiely is quoted as saying, “we’re approached with a lot of projects and we don’t do all of them. I want to work with people that I like and I feel understand us”, which indicates a considered attitude and efforts to maintain a certain style or feel of brand.
I do think it’s important to state now that I don’t think this is a completely contrived effort on Orla Kiely’s part. What I mean by that is she doesn’t design pattern or prints solely with the objective of creating whatever will make the most money or achieve the highest brand recognition. These factors are considered but it seems at the heart of the business is her personal love for and pleasure in creating these things. She says in the aforementioned interview; “I never design anything thinking, ‘this is going to be a winner’. I just do what I like. It’s good when you’re [making] things that you love, or would wear. I want to like it. I want to love it”.