Article Mar 12, 2019

You are no longer passing

Orla Kiely: 'The end of my label felt like a bereavement'

Orla Kiely felt like she was going through a bereavement when her namesake label shut down overnight.

The Orla Kiely brand, famous for its bold prints, suddenly shut up shop in September (18), with the Irish designer now speaking about the end of her label for the first time in an interview with The Telegraph.

"What happened was like a bereavement," she stated. "To say I was upset is an understatement. And then when malicious reports came out about the way we'd allegedly treated our staff, that was horrible and hurtful.

"We did everything we could to save the business we'd set up 23 years previously and to watch it fail was devastating. It was such a tough time."

Kiely officially launched the fashion and lifestyle brand with her husband Dermott Rowan in 1997, and quickly became known for her bold use of 1970s-inspired prints and colors, with celebrity fans including Kirsten Dunst, Alexa Chung, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

But after parent company Kiely Rowan PLC went into administration, the Orla Kiely label was forced to shut down operations, with reports surfacing that staff were marched off the premises, unpaid.

"That is not what happened at all," the designer exclaimed. "It's terrible that was the perception, but at the end, everything was taken out of our hands. Once you go into administration, you have no input. It is illegal even to pay your staff. I would have done so immediately if I could, but it was impossible."

Kiely, who was previously dubbed the Queen of Prints and named as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2011, insisted that "nobody was marched anywhere".

"Something my husband and I had built up from scratch, invested in emotionally and financially was destroyed. Our staff weren't just employees, they were friends, and when we gathered everyone together, there were tears from all of us," she recalled.

Kiely still has her own licensing business and recently put her name to a furniture line sold through interiors company Barker and Stonehouse.