Eschewing the traditional (and considerably more expensive) format of the runway show, Irish (but London-based) designer Orla Kiely opted to present her womenswear collection during London Fashion Week for Autumn/Winter 2013 in the Elms Lesters Painting Rooms in central London. However, the space (built in 1904 to accommodate painting studios that supplied all the West End theatres with their stage backdrops) was devoid of any artistic inclinations; instead, it was transformed into a 1960s office.
Amidst this tableau vivant, female models wore Kiely’s latest collection while performing fictitious secretarial jobs typical of office life five decades ago, including welcoming guests to a reception area, being confined to an all-female typing pool, or filing reams of typed papers in clunky metal drawers. All this while keeping an unwavering smile and looking glamorous, as was expected of secretaries at the time.
Inspirations for the collection came from the film character Margot Tenenbaum, Irish artist Breon O’Casey and flocked wallpaper designs that were popular in the 1970s. Dark and textured fabrics were used in retro staple styles, such as the mini skirt, the overdress and high-waisted shorts, whereas key pieces included knitted dresses, cardigans with embroidered squirrels, blouses with Peter Pan collars, colour blocking dresses, floral prints and petals sewn onto skirts, and thick wool and shearling overcoats.