SUCCESS STORY: Once upon a time, there was Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely - Presentation - LFW FW15

Source: Getty Images EntertainmentTristan Fewings

From mugs to handbags and wallpapers to dresses, print pro, Orla Kiely has developed a brand that seems to have no bounds.  Her use of pattern, colour and 60s influences has taken the design world by storm, and she’s become an iconic figure for a period we all still all love to remember.

Beginning her fashion journey, with a Textiles Degree, Kiely’s first taste of fashion industry was in no other than the Big Apple – New-York, where she used her unique talents for pattern creation whilst working for a wallpaper and fabric designer.  Returning to England, she worked for Esprit while studying for her Masters, primarily in knitwear.  It was her exit show at the Royal College of Art in London that gave her her first break, seeing her collection of hats purchased by Luxury London Fashion giant, Harrods.  She went on to design for various other companies, including both Marks & Spencers and Habitat.
Kiely had so far done so well off the back of her hat designs, but during her first Fashion Week show, her father noted that whilst no one was wearing a hat, nearly everyone carried a handbag.  It was this that sparked the inspiration for her next step in fashion design.  Staying loyal to her love of the 60s era, she had the idea to laminate cloth for handbags – something that had never been done before.  These retro creations took off immediately and with the help and support from her husband, things fell into place and she formed The Orla Kiely Partnership in 1997.
Not just a Fashion Designer, but a brand in her own right, she has since been named ‘The Queen of Prints’, designing patterns for kitchenware, stationary, furniture, wallpaper, a range of Citroën DS3 Cars.  Kiely has also had several collaboration collections with English shoe giant, Clarks.  Alongside this, her own fashion brand has continued to grow year on year, having now branched out to include an accessories collection.
So now we’ve heard her Success Story, let’s put it into practise and analyse how she flourished in an industry that can be so challenging to break into.
Iconic Design

From day one, Kiely’s products – whether sheets, mugs or shoes – have been instantly recognisable.  Rather than jumping on the next new trend, she has stayed true to her own influences and inspirations, allowing her designs to be cohesive and stand out in a world of similar styles.  Whilst trend-following and having changing influences may work for certain designers, creating a timeless brand such of that as Chanel requires links between collections and distinguishable features, such as the gold, link binding, or in Orla Kiely’s case, her bold, 60s leaf prints.
Appropriate Product Placement
Whilst connecting and gaining buyers as a new designer can be extremely difficult, it doesn’t mean you should lower your standards or agree to product placement you think is a bad fit.  The Orla Kiely brand is quintessentially 60s, which, although being an era fashionable amongst young people, is mostly recognisable to those who lived through the time.  By breaking into places like Marks & Spencers and John Lewis, her products were displayed in front of the people most likely to make a connection with them, and therefore buy them.
Market Research
Perhaps the most pivotal point of Orla Kiely’s career came with her father’s evaluation of the Market. While Orla had success with her hats, the market was limited, and so were, therefore, her chances of growth.  By opting to design handbags – an accessory that was much more in demand – she opened up her opportunities of selling to a much wider audience.  While it’s key to have unique and eye-catching designs, as a new designer, it’s also important to compel people to try your products. By providing her customers with a product they were much more familiar and comfortable with, she was able to get people on board with her brand.

Attitude & Determination
“Be confident in yourself”; “Have your own opinion”; “Always finish what you started” are just some of the quotes written on the walls of Kiely’s office.  In a world where fashion is often interpreted as glitz and glam, Kiely’s understated and simple creations must have been, at times, hard to believe in.  However, it was arguably their uniqueness which set them out from the crowd.  By never faltering on her style or inspirations and staying true to herself, she was able to create a brand that not just herself, but other people believed in.
by Stephanie Cvetkovic for Fashion Cross Functional
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SUCCESS STORY: Isaac Mizrahi, nail the fabulous and the affordable

Isaac Mizrahi

Credit: Photograph © Jason Frank Rothenberg

Hi all,

Isaac Mizrahi : the present focus of a new exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York.
From Couture fashion, mass market to TV shows. If there is someone who nailed the switch from fabulous to affordable, it’s him. The success formula? I would say it’s a mix of a great understanding of essence of style, pragmatism and open-mindedness.
So here are five lessons we can learn from his story, as told in this “Behind the label” video:

  1. Considering design is a problem that needs a solution, think about the problems, their life, and think about how you can use the garment in an easy way.
  2. Understand sewing and what makes a garment look fabulous, a talent Isaac Mizrahi aquired watching old movie costumes from the 30’s.
  3. Have a conviction about what will look fabulous and know how to put things together.
  4. Understand image and whichever business he’s in, he assumes he’s entertaining
  5. Avoid oversimplications – like assuming that young means beautiful or rich means powerful. Opening his mind clearly enabled him to bridge easily to other markets and activities.

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SUCCESS STORY: Color the world the Manish Arora way

Manish Arora : Runway - Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2016

Source: GettyImages – Getty Images Entertainment – Kristy Sparow

Hi all,
Modernized Indian design wrapped into psychedelic colors…For today’s success story, I wanted to share with you the interview of a fashion designer I really love: Manish Arora. In this video by the Indian Design Forum, the designer tells us about his vision and the principles that got him propelled onto the Parisian fashion scene.
I think this video is great for all the fashion designers, especially the ones coming from emerging countries and who want to make it globally.

Those are the main ideas I could pinpoint out of the video:

  • Organization skills. At the time this video was made, Manish Arora still worked as a creative director of Paco Rabanne and led his own brand at the same time. The collaboration with two separate teams in two different places required a lot of organization.
  • Discipline. He likes being on time and planning his schedules.
  • Customers’ happiness as a motivation. He designs to bring happiness on people’s face, whichever their country of origin.
  • Emotions. Fashion is not only about clothes. It’s about the whole feeling. When you make a fashion show, you have to make people feel emotions. And he likes giving an Indian feeling to the ones he creates through his designs.
  • Less star attitude, more work. He reminds us that being a fashion designer is less about the fame: it’s a job like any other.
  • Finding the right balance. Firstly, for his brand to last, he needs to manage to find the right balance between doing what he believes in and making the customer happy. Secondly, he also needs to find the balance between selling and still keeping the spirit of the House. Mentioning the example of Paco Rabanne, his challenge at that time was to maintain the Paco Rabanne concept and yet making it wearable enough to sell, which implied looking for solutions to turn metal into fabric.
  • Applying a proper formula to modernizing Indian design. Through his vision, he wants to take India to the Western world. Indeed, he believes the world doesn’t necessarily need another Western designer. So he uses Indian craftsmanship, especially Indian embroidery, which is one of the best worldwide, adapting the craftsmanship in a new way.
  • Be faithful to your brand identity. To make it internationally, it is important to find your own style. It’s not important if people accept you or not. Have your own identity and stick to it. Believe in you and go on and on until people believe in you.



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SUCCESS STORY: Tom Ford, the visionary


Source: Gettyimages – FilmMagic Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

Hi all,

So here are a few lessons we can take out of the video and his work:

  • Be a perfectionist. I know he says perfectionism is something you’re born with but you must learn to be demanding with yourself, the quality of the pieces and services you sell.
  • Use your intuition: Tom Ford is all about sensing the mood in the world and adapting his collections to that ambiance. He has a real understanding of historical and economic trends and how to translate that into design.
  • Develop a personality: Tom Ford used his knowledge in architecture to understand that everything has a logic, a balance, a vocabulary from the use of a material to the choice of a certain color. That enabled him to give a true personality to his clothes.
  • Learn to communicate with people through your creations. Tom Ford loves to see how people incorporate his design to their look, not a total look as presented in his fashion shows but a part of their personality. He loves the idea of bringing joy to people.
  • Do the best you can do each time: Choose the best fabric you can. Do the best stitching you can do.


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