By  on November 8, 2005

LONDON — When Orla Kiely, the Irish born, London-based designer known for her organic-inspired prints, was planning her first store outside Asia, she had an unusual design mission.

"I didn't want it to seem too much like a shop," said Kiely of her new London flagship on Covent Garden's Monmouth Street. "I wanted it to have a friendly feel, but to be flexible space too, so people don't get bored with the store."

To achieve this, Kiely, in collaboration with architect Gerard Taylor, has lined the walls with removable wooden slats shaped like her signature leaf print, so the displays of leather bags and tweed coats that hang from the wall can be changed at a moment's notice. Rather than using shelves, change purses and key rings are hidden in a Fifties wooden chest of draws, which Kiely has sourced from Amsterdam and lined with her own print.

"We wanted the store to reflect the brand's value system, rather than just be about product," Dermott Rowan, Kiely's business partner and husband, said during a walk-through of the store.

The 900-square-foot space, which is housed over two floors, is Kiely's fourth stand-alone store and the first outside Asia, where the company has three units in Tokyo, including a flagship in Roppongi Hills that opened in 2003, as well as several shop-in-shop units in Japan and South Korea. The company's business in Asia is operated by Itochu.

Kiely turned to London for her next opening because she and Rowan regard the company as "a London brand." She trained at the city's Royal College of Art, and works with an international design team at her South London studio.

"We chose Monmouth Street, as it's a place that people discover. It's tucked away," said Kiely, whose store is alongside Kiehl's, lingerie boutique Coco de Mer and across from the Covent Garden Hotel. Kiely added the street attracts a mix of Covent Garden's media crowd, shoppers and tourists looking "off the beaten track."

The Monmouth Street store is the only one outside Asia to carry Kiely's full range of products in one location, including her ready-to-wear line, leather accessories and a travel line comprising luggage, vinyl wash bags and vinyl suitcases, including some printed with tiny cars.Kiely's rtw line includes coats in Irish tweed and wool, dresses in jersey, silk and wool and knit cardigans, sweaters and ponchos. Prices range from about $67 for a cotton T-shirt to approximately $1,134 for a fleece-lined neoprene coat.

Having previously dabbled in the homeware market by designing a line of wallpaper for Habitat, Kiely saw to it that the Monmouth Street store carries her wool rugs in four color ways that retail for about $607. Prices at the store start at $37 for a leather key ring.

Rowan declined to give a first-year sales estimate for the store, but Kiely said the response has been "so good" they are considering boutiques in other cities.

"We're going to start here in London, and go from there," Kiely said. "but it would be lovely to move on to other cities."

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