Much like the storied Italian knitwear houses that it aims to emulate, New York-based luxury label Orley is a family affair. It’s run by two brothers, Alex and Matthew, and Matthew’s wife, Samantha. They launched menswear for Spring 2014, designing finely knit polos, elastic-waist track pants, and above-the-knee shorts in incredibly particular hues like dusty terra-cotta, Dijon yellow, and sage green. From the start, there was a clear intention here: Take “old guy” clothes and make them look young. But not too young that the old guys still won’t want to buy them. “We have never tried to define our men’s customer by an age. For us it has always been more about defining the mind-set,” Alex said. “I think our customer in both men’s and women’s share an ageless youthfulness.”
Resort 2016 marked Orley’s second foray into womenswear. While the men’s collection included woven fabrics, women’s was knitwear only. “We wanted to tell a full story, but to tell it in as focused a way as possible,” Samantha said, although they didn’t forgo structure for softness. For instance, a crochet bomber and matching pencil skirt were made from Japanese silk tape yarn, which has as much shape as any sturdy woven. A pointed collar vest was knit on a fine-gauge machine, but plied up and double-faced so that it felt like a proper piece of outerwear. To capitalize on the popularity of cable-knit without offering too much sameness, the team developed a bubbly “scallop” pattern that was fashioned into a kicky skirt and shell. The look was a bit prim and a bit sporty, and just quirky enough to appeal to a range of shopping archetypes.
There are crossovers from the menswear line—the fine-gauge polos are there, as are the graphic jacquards—but it was important to the Orleys that the women’s looks not mirror the men’s. “This isn’t just our men’s clothes for women,” Matthew said. “It’s about capturing a feminine mind-set.” And that they did. Orley’s advantage over other emerging brands is that its point of view has been clear from the get-go. But it’s still going to take some time to find a customer willing to invest in a name they don’t know. (And it is indeed an investment. The crochet bomber, for instance, will retail for $2,795.) Still, Orley is offering something unique, and that is admirable.