Thursday, July 25, 2013

Let's Talk About It: Orla Kiely And Other Designer Lines For Target

This week saw Carole Middleton wearing an Orla Kiely dress to visit her newborn grandson, Prince George, at the hospital. In the past we also saw the Duchess of Cambridge in a pretty dress from the line. I'm a huge Orla Kiely fan. I like the colors and prints, the vintage aesthetics, and the clothes that transcend time and trends. I also love knowing that there's no chance you'd catch a Kardashian or a Real Housewife sporting Orla Kiely.

The Irish designer has been collaborating with mass market retailers for a while now. There was an Orla Kiely for Uniqlo collection that sold out almost instantly (I think items still pop up on eBay), and now there's an adorable Orla Kiely packaging for Method household products. I don't mind it-- I like Method well enough and it makes sense to recycle the bottles. What I'm really not sure about  is designer lines for Target, which is the latest project, despite the cute drinking glasses that would look adorable holding makeup brushes.

There was a celeb-laden preview party (Alexa Chung and Karen Elson were there), and who doesn't like the Orla Kiley iPhone covers and other little accessories? I'll tell you who: she who tries to avoid Target in general other than for buying cat litter and looks with suspicion at the masses of cheap Made In China items with Isaac Mizrahi labels. I've always been of two minds about these things. Why shouldn't there be well-designed and affordable clothes and accessories that are easily available for everyone and anyone? But the reality of high-end designers who put their names (hence their seal of approval) on mass-produced, cheaply made schmata, reek of greed and disrespect for their natural clientele. You know, the people who look for high quality and exquisite design and are willing to pay for it.  Remember what followed the Anya Hindmarch for Target?

Personally, just as I didn't stand in line to buy Proenza Schouler for Target line, I think I'll skip these Orla Kiely accessories. It will also make me think twice before I buy another scarf from the designer.

What say you? Am I missing the point here? How do you feel about top designers who put their labels on these lines?


  1. You are going to think twice before buying again from this designer because...
    A. You don't advocate the global sourcing of cheaply made goods.
    B. You're taking a stand for worker's rights in manufacturing countries.
    C. You don't want to be seen in an print that a commoner might have on her iphone.

    It may or may not have been the way you intended it but, I read your post as C.

    1. NeenaJ - You've just saved me from typing my reply to the original post. I don't think it's purely coincidence that I will be voting for option C, also.

  2. Interesting point and not one I've considered before. I love Orla Kiely and relish the thought of her designs infiltrating more of American culture and being more accessible to moi (tho I buy happily off her site already). But I, too, am unhappy about the Target connection, perhaps for a different reason: Target openly puts its money behind political issues that I find objectionable (tho others may approve of them) and so I try not to give them my hard-earned cash. Makes me a bit sad that Orla Kiely would be associated with them. Yet how pretty her patterns look...hard to resist.

  3. Look at it this way, it's better than people buying Kardashian designs. And you can still buy the high end line of clothing which will always be of better quality and design...hopefully. :)

  4. In the States, Uniqlo and Target are different beasts, but it's not so in Japan. Uniqlo helped ushered the era of cheap mass produced goods from China there and are as ubiquitous as GAP is here, or I daresay even Target.

    I saw tons of clearance racks of Orly Kiely marked down to 980 yen, some made of rather cheap fabric.

    I see both as one as the same. Perhaps the undercurrent you feel is also one of a cherished brand being cheapened by the "wrong" type of accessibility? Is it ok to be common but not TOO common?

  5. Truthfully, I am both surprised and disappointed in your position. You sound classist, which is not a trait I associated you with before. I assure you that Orla Kiely's native clientele will manage to carry on and move on to the next trendy label, and continue to receive more than their fair share of respect in the real world, simply because they have more money. The ability for commoners to enjoy nice-ish things for once will in no way infringe upon that unearned sense of specialness.

  6. When it comes to options A to C above, I place equal importance on all three. I buy more accessories from small indie designers who don't outsource, as well as vintage housewares. Regular readers know that I often feature handmade Etsy items and artists-- for everything from jewelry, iPad covers to homespun yarn. I'm not fanatic about it, but I believe in sustainability and re-purposing whenever possible. This is the main reason I do my best to avoid shopping at mega-stores like Target.

    I also like luxury, which to me means high quality, carefully chosen materials, and high-skilled (and well-paid) labor. To me, when a beloved brand starts manufacturing mass amounts at low cost facilities for the sake of providing products with a recognizable logo at a low price, the luxury element is diminished, together with much of the brand's appeal. I don't think it's classicism, but maybe I'm wrong.

    I think some people skipped the part where I said that the part I like about this trend is how it makes good design more accessible and affordable. I'm very happy about that. But as Arugula said so perfectly above, I do have a problem when a cherished brand starts making products that look and feel cheap. It immediately makes me wonder about the full priced items they offer.

  7. Very interesting discussion. I also try to avoid Target for reasons A and B - except Scotchgard, which apparently ONLY they carry these days? - but do like their price range for clothes and accessories.

    Especially since I'm less and less impressed with the quality of so-called "high end" designers. Apologies in advance for the mini rant coming. But I'm LA located and so recently took a stroll on Melrose Place, something I've never done before, with a girlfriend and was so disappointed in the offerings. Everything that caught my eye in Marc Jacobs looked well-structured but also was made of polyester; Theory used to make these nice silk long-sleeved blouses, now everything is sleeveless, weather bedamned, to save money on fabric; I tried on a great Vivienne Westwood dress that had no lining and was see through - and the SA straight up told me that the designer only includes "perks" like linings in her most expensive range. But the dress was retailing for over five hundred dollars! Since - for me, at least - a $500 item of clothing is a definite splurge, I want something quality. I now have more respect for designers like DVF: her stuff is by no means cheap but it's well-constructed, mostly made out of decent materials that will biodegrade when finally discarded and, as far as I can tell, no one dies in factory fires making her clothes.

    As for the A,B,C debate going on, for what it's worth, I've always gotten a luxury-loving vibe off you in the past few years reading your blog but never anything classist, Gaia. I think it's just the fact that you ended the post on that note - and maybe the "natural clientele" wording - that makes the point itself stick out at and may be rubbing people the wrong way. Anyway, thanks for providing a forum to discuss the topic. Great post!

  8. Late to this discussion, but I saw this more as a how sad for a line that is supposed to be about qualility almost "sell out" to make a quick buck. For me, it's like, why can't the Target designer collab items be made of better quality? I mean ok, maybe not at the high end level because its mass produced, but come on! Just because some people can't afford the high end designer item doesn't mean they want shoddy made items. Like that Neiman Marcus collab. EPIC. FAIL. Target brand items were better quality. So embarrassing. It makes me think that they don't really care about their customer- whether it's a " high end" or "low end" customer. That's what I thought when Gaia said it would make her think twice about buying from the high end line. If you don't care about your "low end" brand and customer whose to say they GAF about their "high end"?


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