23 May 2024, 22:22
By Furniture News Jul 08, 2019

Prints charming from Orla Kiely

Described by The Guardian as “the Queen of Prints”, Irish fashion designer Orla Kiely OBE’s unique designs have been applied to everything from hats to cars. Now, thanks to an exclusive partnership with The Branded Furniture Company, her colourful blend of mid-century pattern and retro cool is making its presence felt in upholstery – Paul Farley speaks to sales manager Jess Arnold to find out more …

In November, The Branded Furniture Company – a combination of Whitemeadow Upholstery’s manufacturing capabilities and design consultancy B&F Studio – became the official license partner for the Orla Kiely Upholstery range.

Already present across numerous homewares lines – including wallpaper from Style Library, bedding from Ashley Wilde, and home accessories from Wild & Wolf – the brand boasts a healthy fan base, which was quick to appreciate its application to sofas, armchairs, footstools and beds.

“Over 200 people attended the brand’s launch at Barker & Stonehouse Guildford,” says Jess. The support this particular stockist has shown has really catalysed its reveal, while providing a benchmark for others. This month, the range will be launched through other retailers (including northern powerhouse, Arighi Bianchi) throughout the UK and Ireland.

“During its initial launch, in just three short months Barker and Stonehouse pushed the brand through their brochure and social media so much – there’s even a video interview with Orla on their website,” Jess continues. “They’ve already proved that the concept works best when it receives the full backing of the stockist.”

Even before it was launched at this year’s January Furniture Show, The Branded Furniture Company knew it would have to choose its retail partners carefully to achieve its brand goals. “Orla’s team have been keen to ensure that retailers selected appreciate the core values of her brand and are willing to truly embrace the concept – both in-store and through their marketing channels,” says Jess.

The Branded Furniture Company has created a PoS package including spec cards and swatches, as well as a useful visual merchandising guide that helps stockists envisage how Orla Kiely Upholstery can best work within a retail context. The guide offers sales and display tips, a summary of available in-store assets, wallpaper and paint suggestions, and contact points for Orla Kiely’s other licensed homewares partners.

“We’ve already discovered that a display of three groups –utilising bold colour and embracing Orla’s signature designs – works very well to establish the brand,” Jess explains. “Customers can better envision its potential this way, and it helps them understand that each model has a different set of characteristics.”

Designed and manufactured to order in the UK, the furniture features the brand’s iconic patterns and branding, along with a comfy sit, high-quality finish and family-friendly fabrics.

The collection comprises 14 models, all of which have been greenlit by Orla. The six sofas are: Fern, a retro line with soft curves, which is slightly more traditional than many of the others, and Orla’s favourite – “it’s probably the most ‘Orla’ piece,” says Jess, “and resonates with the brand’s fans”; Mimosa, which has rounded bolsters and a deep sit; Linden, which is available with all-over print covers; Ivy, the collection’s second-best performer so far; Willow; and Laurel. 

Every model features branded zips, Orla’s iconic Stem-printed lining cloth, sewn-in branded tags, wooden legs, foam seats and fibre backs, and come in various combinations of plain and printed fabrics. Included in the range is a selection of 10 scatter cushions, all featuring original Orla prints.

There’s also three beds (Dottie, Sophia and Alexa), four footstools (Donegal, Longford, Flynn and Conway) and Una, an eye-catching cocktail chair.

“I’d describe the overall collection as colourful, bold, retro, experimental and adventurous,” says Jess. “Elements of the collection are tailored towards what an Orla Kiely fan would look for – if you love the brand, you can really go wild! There’s plenty of room for putting your own stamp on it – but it’s commercial, too. We’ve specifically designed shapes that will suit a variety of homes. If you’re more laid back, you can go for a more subtle combination of fabrics – we have 49 plains, nine prints and nine cut velvets to choose from.”

This year’s Manchester Furniture Show will see the second phase of the project come to life, with at least two new sofa groups, more accent pieces and a range of new fabrics and scatter cushions making their debut in the Cobden Room at Manchester Central. In the meantime, the collection has taken up residence within manufacturer Whitemeadow’s design and product development centre in Sutton In Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, where it can be viewed by appointment.

Available on a lead time of six weeks, this colourful and eclectic new line promises to offer discerning retailers an opportunity to achieve a real point of difference in their stores. If the initial launch is anything to go by, a pattern has already started to emerge …

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