Orla began her career studying at Dublin's National College of Art. She obtained her master's degree from the Royal College of Art in London and has subsequently been a visiting lecturer at the RCA and Chelsea College of Art. She was also an external examiner for the National College of Art and Design in Dublin for two years. In 2005 Orla was awarded the Irish Tatler Irish Woman of the Year for design. She has also judged on several occasions for the UK Graduate Fashion Week Industry and Media Awards.