Brothers Matthew and Alex Orley along with Samantha Florence are the designers behind the new mens knitwear label Orley. The Orley aesthetic draws on an array of influences, from 20th century art to the Canadian outdoors, while maintaining a sense if humor and elegance.
What inspired you to start your collection with bright colors?
We felt there was a void in the market for colorful designer menswear that stood out from the rest. While the colors are definitely a cornerstone of the collection, what we were really trying to show with this first collection is our interest in doing something innovative and unique to the market place. Hopefully as we grow we’ll have different platforms to show that concept as well.
Do you feel men need to be more adventurous in their dress?
We don’t care to tell anyone how they should be dressing, but we do think that there is an existing customer that isn’t being properly serviced by a lot of existing upscale menswear. Our guy is sophisticated and knows how to dress well. He isn’t afraid of being bold in his self expression, he wants to find a product that is rare and can be unique to him.
How have people been responding to the price point, sweaters are priced at $795?
When we started this one of the first things we decided was that we would not sacrifice quality for cost, and the collection speaks to the customer that feels the same way. It’s important to us that everything we do is of the highest possible quality. All the yarns we use are sourced from Italian mills and all of our work is manufactured in some of the best Italian factories. Our customer is someone that is willing to spend more to get more, and we think when it comes to a unique innovative product, our sweaters are worth their cost – and just as importantly, competitive in the marketplace.
Can you tell us a bit about the production process? How are the prints developed?
Our process is constantly evolving, in the beginning of each season we talk a lot about the color palette we’re going to use and the silhouettes. Developing custom colors is important to us. We do our yarn buy in Italy and once we have our yarn groups we start developing stitches. All our sampling and production is done in Italy with some of the development in New York. In terms of some of the larger intarsia artwork or jacquard concepts, we do full size layouts so we can see the impact fulness of the designs before we send anything to the factory. It’s a collaborative process. We would go into more detail but we should probably play some cards close to the chest.
Did you all train to be designers? What is your background?
We each have different experiences in various aspects of the fashion industry. After studying abroad in Paris, Sam moved to New York and almost immediately got a job at Helmut Lang, Matthew interned in production for Thom Browne, and Alex started with no formal design experience as an intern at Rag & Bone while studying at NYU and worked his way up to Design Assistant. Afterwards, Alex went to Parsons and completed a degree in menswear with a focus on tailoring and knitwear.
Who would you name as some of your contemporaries?
Can we say that we think we are peerless? We always want to imbue all of our designs with a point of difference and we talk a lot about how there needs to be a reason for any design to exist outside of just existing. If you can buy the same black v-neck sweater from fifty companies at every price point, I don’t think our making one would add anything to the marketplace. What we make can’t be purchased from another company or at another price point.
What are some of your next steps?
In June, we are going to be debuting our SS13 collection at Pitti Uomo Touch. Pitti is one of the most renowned men’s tradeshows and the Touch section is for their most innovative designers. We are really excited and will hopefully introduce the brand to more international buyers.
How will the collection evolve for spring?
Our FW12 collection was very graphic and our SS13 collection is more textural. We focused less on jacquards and more on interesting stitch techniques. We are still developing a ton of custom colors but I think it is a different way of presenting some of the same innovative ideas we were trying to put forward with the last collection. We are also introducing some new silhouettes not that common in knitwear and launching a collection of knit ties.
Which retailers are you targeting?
For our inaugural FW12 collection, we’ll be working with Union in Los Angeles (www.unionlosangeles.com), Five Story in New York (www.fivestoryny.com), and Distractions in Aspen (www.distractionsaspen.com). We’re looking to work with similar highly curated boutiques that are destinations in and of themselves for those truly looking to seek out the new and exciting in fashion.
As young boys did you ever think you would work together as adults? Does Samantha bring a sense of calm to the mix?
Matt and I [Alex] worked at competing retail stores across the street from each other in high school, and we were always fairly competitive both academically and creatively. With that being said, we’ve also always known that we would like to work together at some point. I think we are still really competitive, and we push each other creatively to do the best work possible. The only difference is that now we’re on the same team. As for Sam – when Matt and I get too competitive she is definitely the glue that keeps us together.