Darren, Darren and ernie the poodle

Darren (right) is head designer at Orla Kiely, Darren (left) is a video editor. And meet Ernie in the middle!

Words: Simon Glazin              Pictures: Rikki Percival

Orla Kiely's designs are iconic, instantly recognisable and loved by millions. Yes, Orla is a real-life woman who dedicates her life to her brand, but Darren Cross (above, right) plays a BIG part in the company too. He has been head designer on the ready-to-wear side of the business for a decade. Those signature floral prints splashed across knitwear, down to him. And the gorgeous, tailored lace dresses? Yep, Darren as well. 

In his own words, he LOVES working at Orla Kiely. And you can tell by all the little glimpses of the now-famous prints and designs all over his house: a printed radio on a shelf, cushions on a bed, cups in the kitchen. Ten years is impressive for the fashion world. In an industry that works six months in advance, people have a tendency to move around companies frequently. It's refreshing to hear someone speak so passionately about their work. 

Darren and Darren met at school. They were, in their own words, 'the only gays in the village'. Not only do they share the same name, but the same hospital of birth, similar beards, 20 years of being together, and the undeniable love for Ernie the poodle. Ernie is quick and nimble, friendly and a real character. He splits his week roaming the Orla Kiely studio and keeping (other) Darren company in his video editing suite. Oh, and below is exactly how he is carried - sitting in the crook of their arms. He's a terribly sweet dog! 

Scroll down to see more of these three, and to hear about Ernie's human past-times! 

'He prefers to eat human food served on a plate and not a bowl, he taps his bowl when the water is nearly empty...'

On living with Ernie: Ernie rules the roost at home. We are both fortunate enough that we can take him to work with us. During the week, the walk to and from the tube as well as a quick lunch time stroll is enough exercise for him. Weekends he is with us most of the time, whether it's in a local Hackney pub, or walking round Hackney Marshes or London Fields. If we do have plans to go away, we have a waiting list of family and friends that want to look after him.

The more time we spend with him though, the more human be gets. He prefers to eat human food served on a plate and not out of a bowl, he taps his bowl when the water is nearly empty, or the water is not cold or fresh enough (no lie) and sleeps in between us both at night with his head on the the pillow. Ruined right!


On their careers: I'm senior designer at Orla Kiely. I have worked there nearly 10 years now, designing the RTW clothing collections, working on the lookbooks and ad campaigns. I'm lucky enough to work with great people... Leith Clark our stylist (Violet/ Lula founder and Fashion Editor at Harper's Bazaar) owns Ernie's poodle sister called Zazie and she convinced my boyfriend to get him and not the miniature Schnauzer he initially wanted. I always wanted a toy poodle as we often looked after Leith's eldest dog, Tilda who is chilled and loyal. I take him to work two days a week and Darren is an editor at Final Cut with his own suite, so has him the other three days. Darren works on music videos and commercials.


On Ernie inspiring his work: Ernie is a regular on our lookbook shoots. He's so great to be around on days like this and has mastered the art of posing for the camera (too much practice on my own personal Instagram @darrencross). He normally gets into a still life bag shot at the end of the shoot day. We recently shot our AW16 ad campaign with Venetia Scott and Ernie was shot as part of a still life, not sure if it will make the final edit though. At work he has his own chair and sits next to me. Orla has 2 dogs: Olive, a labradoodle, and Ivy the westipoo. Ernie and Ivy are good mates and hang out all day. Olive is too cool and doesn't play with the young pups.


On a career plan B: Believe it or not I studied medicine for three months at university but realised it wasn't for me so changed direction and got onto an art foundation course. After that I studied Fashion Print at Saint Martins, then worked at Eley Kishimoto as a designer and from there I went onto Orla Kiely. 


On their daily routine: We get up at 5:45am and head to the gym for 6:30. Then we get ready for work and get the tube in with Ernie. (carried on the carriage and on the escalator!) I work in Soho, and Darren five minutes down the road on Margaret Street. At work when I have him he sits on a chair next to my desk. Darren has his own edit suite so Ernie has full reign to run around and hang out. Lunch times I either eat out and leave him on the design floor or I walk to Russell Square and have lunch with Ernie in the park. 


On career advice: I became a designer by doing art foundation and then fashion print at Central Saint Martins. Work experience is vital and in my year out, I worked for Eley Kishimoto, Matthew Williamson, Markus Lupfer and a small east London label, House of Jazz which is owned by Pablo (who also owns restaurants Bistrotheque and Hoi Polloi) and Hazel, now designer at Loewe. It's all about the contacts -  I've kept in touch with them all, you never know when you might need a favour! 


On what they do for down-time: Running at the weekends, road trips to the country, hanging out with friends, yoga at Stretch on Broadway Market, going to gigs, eating out. All the usual things! 


On their favourite Ernie tale: He really has his own personality and is super switched on and smart. He gets very excited when he sees us if we've been away, jumps up and down and screams a lot. He prefers to be carried than walked! He jumps up onto our legs at the tube platform as he wants to be in our arms rather than on the floor. In the pub he sits on a chair and likes fabric under him (usually a jumper or jacket). A bit of a diva! 


On the breed of dog he'd most like to be: Ernie has a pretty good life to be honest so I wouldn't mind being him!

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