Skip to main content

Meet Up Mondays: Orley

For all the trends that come and go each season, the most alluring idea today is the simple notion of eminently wearable, everyday clothing elevated with luxurious fabrics and fine detail. That the New York-based company Orley does this and gets it is one of the reasons the nearly two-year-old brand, known for its technically innovative knits, slightly irreverent spirit and European Riviera-like sophistication, has already earned a coveted spot at the CFDA Fashion Incubator (the ground zero lab for tomorrow’s leading American designers) and is now blowing up globally. Using some of the world’s finest yarns, including those by Italy’s Loro Piana and Cariaggi, the company releases its first full ready-to-wear collection this spring, featuring highly covetable items ranging from a navy linen bomber jacket to camel hair-silk blended sweater and knit lounge pants. We recently caught up with Orley founders Alex and Matthew Orley and Matthew’s fiancée Samantha Florence to learn more about the most buzzed-about menswear brand of the moment in New York City.

M: Let’s start with the fact that you’re a family brand! Did that ever worry you as you started to put the company together? 

Related Videos

Orley: Nope! 

M: What was everyone doing before Orley came together and where did the specific idea for the brand come from?

Orley SS14 Lookbook_14_250.jpgOrley SS14 Lookbook_13_250.jpg

Alex: I attended NYU and studied Fine Art and Art History and attended Parsons afterwards. I also worked for about two years at Rag & Bone. Sam spent about four years at Helmut Lang in sales, and Matthew spent a year as a production intern at Thom Browne. We all had different jobs in the fashion industry, but we had been talking about launching Orley for a long time. I think Matthew was 7 [I] was 5 when we first started talking about it.

M: So what is everyone’s part in the brand?

Orley: Alex designs, Sam does sales and merchandising. Matt is the brains of the operation.

M: Now if I’m to understand the brand correctly, Orley sets itself apart by the quality of its fabrics, workmanship and, as a result, price. Can you explain what kind of special work went into making, say, your most accomplished piece for the current collection?

Orley: Well, every piece that we make is different. As a whole we always source the most beautiful raw materials we can find, and on an individual level, we are always working to develop things that are completely unique to us, whether it is a custom stitch that we develop in house (which we do often) or even developing custom yarns. From there we create our own jacquards, which is why a scarf or a sweater from us will be completely different from anything you will see from another brand. Our approach to everything feeds from that mentality.

M: You don’t shy away from “technique,” in fact it’s almost as if you’re excited by it. Still, you always seem to draw the line at sophistication in each of your collections. Where does that level of sophistication come from?

Orley: We always try and work within the framework of classicism, but at the same time we really try and subvert the notion of classicism. Whether that is through color or silhouette or fabrication, everything needs a reason to exist. Hopefully the main reason is its uniqueness. There are a lot of brands in the world that make a lot of things; we are not really interested in adding to the noise. Hopefully we are making something really special and unique that someone who is looking for that will appreciate.

M: So who is the man you’re designing for?

Orley: Sometimes it is us, sometimes it is our grandfather, sometimes it’s our younger brother. It is a guy who appreciates quality and isn’t afraid of his own personality.

Orley SS14 Lookbook_06_250.jpg

M: To be sure, there’s a lot of color and pattern in your collection. Is there a right way or a wrong way to wear stripes and florals? How does that reconcile with the overall brand philosophy?

Alex: I think as long as you feel good about what you are wearing, you will look good. We love color and texture and patterns. But it’s not for everyone. You need to know what is right for you.

M: What’s another creed that the Orley team lives by?

Orley: To infinity, and beyond.

M: What other fans are you of?

Orley: Marc Newson, Robert Rauschenberg, Nick Hornby.

M: I see a lot of multicultural, travel references on your blog. Is that a big influence on the brand?

Orley: Definitely. We have all done a good deal of traveling. Matt and Alex grew up in Detroit, but also lived in Norway when they were young. And Matt and Sam lived together in Paris before moving to New York. We all tend to get a bit restless if we are in one place for too long.

M: What’s the most inspirational thing you’ve seen, heard and experienced all year?

Alex: Silence is always my number one inspiration. I guess visually something that I always find really inspiring is the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice. I try to go every time I am there.

M: Finally things are moving quickly for you, what with the latest move into the CFDA Fashion Incubator. You seem to have your wits about you, so I need to ask what do you think makes a brand these days?

Alex: No man is an island.  I don’t think this would be possible if we didn’t have each other. I think everyone needs a strong support system.

M: And where do you see yourself in five years?

Alex: If this doesn’t pan out we will probably move to Jamaica and become fishermen or grow coffee.

Editors' Recommendations

How to Buy a Quality Sweater: Material, Types, and Tips
Latin american guy trying out a sweater on top at a men's clothing store.

Having the right sweater to wear with any outfit is kind of like a wine pairing. Can you serve a tasty steak with a wine that’s not a luscious Cabernet Sauvignon? Sure, but it’s just not as perfect. Building a sweater wardrobe is what separates the sartorially proficient from the stylistically sad. We suggest choosing a few key pieces that work with your life, career, and wardrobe, buying the best you can afford, and then taking good care of them. 
Like so many things in life, in sweaters, you usually do get what you pay for. That is not to say that sometimes expensive designer merchandise isn’t made from cheap materials, and what you’re really paying for is a few square inches of logo-embroidered label. Conversely, a store will sometimes sell a well-made sweater of quality yarns as a “loss-leader,” hoping to tempt you into the department to splurge on other things. Without diving too deeply into technical specifications, just keep in mind the following: Natural fibers like wool or cotton, are more expensive than man-made fibers like acrylic, and they also usually hold up better. Before you buy a sweater, turn it inside out: are the seams straight and bound properly, so they won’t come apart easily after a few wears? Does the zipper feel like it could catch easily on the sweater itself? Are the buttons sewn on securely? Beyond that, buy the best you can afford, and hold onto your receipts.  

Exactly What is A Sweater?

Read more
Fall Fashion Picks From DL1961, Falconeri, and Sanctuary
Sanctuary (left) and Falconeri's (right) new fall styles.

With fall colors dropping and autumn pants and shirts popping, this seems like the perfect time to look at a few new seasonal threads that might help to keep the Manual man warm and in vogue as colder days descend.


Read more
How to Wash a Cashmere Sweater Without Ruining It
Knit cozy sweater folded in a pile on wooden background.

Look, we get it: it can be tempting to never want to wash your best cashmere sweaters. Maybe you had a traumatizing moment with stray knitwear making its way into the dryer. Or maybe you just spent a ton on fancy cashmere and don’t want to risk ruining your investment. We’ve all been there. But the fact remains: sooner or later things are going to get stinky or, even worse, stained and you’re going to need to figure out how to wash cashmere sweaters.

Before you ask, yes you can dry clean cashmere sweaters. (You can dry clean basically anything if you really want to, frankly.) In fact, that little tag inside the waist of your sweater would tell you that’s what you’re supposed to do. Dry cleaning’s got a dark side, though: they use a ton of harsh chemicals to get the stains and odors out of your gear. Over time, these chemicals will start to break down the fibers in your favorite sweater and before you know it, you’ll be way worse off than if you just gritted your teeth and learned how to clean a cashmere sweater yourself in the first place.

Read more