Discover the history of Orla Kiely’s most-loved print

Story of the stem

Often described as one of the most recognisable prints of the 21st Century by experts and commentators in the world of textiles, the Stem print seems to have a unique ability to take on new personalities through scale, texture and colour. The print that we are best known for, Stem is a simple graphic leaf that has been very kind to us over the years. Designed in 2000, it has become our brand icon, an enduring motif that has survived the test of time. We have fun re-imagining it each season, surprising even ourselves, like a puzzle with infinite configurations, keeping it fresh and allowing it to remain strong and relevant, no matter the season.

“I personally like pieces that have a strong identity, whether through the use of vibrant colour, a striking silhouette or a strong all over pattern.” - Orla

The 60s and 70s were an era of pattern. A lot of designs were inspired by contemporary art and architecture. There was a tactile quality, and sense of energy and vitality which has played a huge role in influencing our design process over the years. Orla came up with the concept for Stem over 20 years ago, and the design as we know it today was finalised in 2000. Originally drawn by Orla, by hand, the Stem pattern was perfected when converted to a digital file, where the form and symmetry of the pattern really shone through. Based on a rowan leaf, the Stem pattern holds significant meaning to Orla and her family, as Dermott's (Orla’s husband) name is Rowan. A lovely detail to be associated with the brand’s most-loved pattern.

“We should have called it Rowan Leaf. My husband’s surname is Rowan - I don’t know why we didn’t! It looks like it’s growing and people respond to that. And somehow, the balance, the density of the leaves, it just seems to work.” - Orla

The organic nature of Orla Kiely designs are very important, simplifying flowers, leaves and anything from nature, but also objects and everyday things that you may not expect to be a direct influence on Orla’s design aesthetic. Paring something right back to its absolute simplicity is at the centre of Orla Kiely’s style. From architecture to nature, we’re surrounded by pattern and there’s something incredibly soothing about it. The Orla Kiely team are always looking for new ways to update the Stem, whether with colour, scale or new motifs, the print is directly and sometimes not so directly honoured each season, and there is something very special about that. An iconic pattern, one that has shone brightly over the 30 years the brand has been around.

Shop the Classic Stem collection.