With an open heart and mind I set off for one of my favourite London destinations last week, the Fashion and Textile Museum, to see the exhibition which gives this post its name. FTM has staged another top quality exhibition drawing on company archives as well as works by numerous collaborators of this successful and influential designer. I said that I went with an open heart and mind, because I’m not sure that I like her work. I’m not normally one to ciriticise and I can usually find something to enjoy and what’s not to enjoy? I love textiles, colours and patterns, surely I’m half way there to enjoying this exhibition? Perhaps it is because I grew up in the 1970s surrounded by these bold repeat patterns in oranges, greens, mustards and pinks; from flower stickers on the toilet seat to patterns on saucepans and flowing party dresses – the latter with the addition of ric rac – but I just couldn’t feel the ‘joy and happiness’ (Kiely, p.13) of the brand.
The fashions at the exhibition were described as, “Appealing to confident, stylish and intelligent women” and in the Autumn/Winter 2015 collection lifestyle film these women were in a library! What a cliche.
However, if you are a fan of Orla Kiely, you will love this exhibition. It runs until 23rd September, so there is still time to go. But, if you’re not going to make it, you can see the accompanying book in the University Library: A Life in Pattern: and how it can make you happy without even noticing. Heavily illustrated with Kiely’s signature patterns, it is representative of her work. Take a look and decide for yourself.