To be an Orley doesn’t just mean belonging to a family or sharing a last name with other people.
“I would just like to say that it wasn’t me that wore a bolero tie to a wedding,” declares NYU 2010 graduate Alex Orley, talking over both his brother Matthew (NYU ’09) and Matt’s girlfriend Samantha Florence. The conversation suggests that perhaps it was Matthew who wore the offending accessory at said wedding, a fashion choice that likely would not have made it past the drawing board for the brothers’ new fashion line Orley.
Together with Sam, Alex and Matthew recently designed and launched a line of brightly-colored sweaters, scarves and hats that has already garnered the attention of GQ and the New York Times. The defining characteristic of the line, the three agree, is its “Orleyness,” a quality that refers to its sensible eccentricity and steely individualism—and, of course, the fact that it’s something of a family project.
“I think ‘Orleyness’ is like, uniqueness, or colorfulness—” Alex begins, before his brother cuts him off.
“Well, the definition of ‘Orlification‘ is exaggeration,” Matt explains, referring to a term the family uses to describe the Orleys’ love of hyperbole. “If something is Orlified, it’s extremely exaggerated.”
The Orlified knitwear in the new line pop with the bombastic colors of a coral reef without flashing like a Myspace page or an M.I.A. getup. The line doesn’t sacrifice the sophistication of its technically-trained creators for bright colors, and so it’s no surprise that the company website says the “pillars of the Orley brand are humor and elegance.”
In keeping with something of an unofficial family tradition, both Alex and Matt received their undergraduate degrees from Gallatin. Both also interned at high-end boutiques in New York—Alex at Rag & Bone, Matt at Thom Browne—giving them hands-on experience in fashion-forward menswear. Sam, though not an Orley by blood, was raised in Toronto (yes, she went to school with Drake) by one of the city’s pioneering families in the fashion industry. In New York, she quickly worked her way up the ladder at Helmut Lang.
The trio’s background and experience equipped them to launch a fashion line as soon as possible—in Alex’s words, “while we’re young and creative.” As of now, Orley is a niche product that will be carried in select boutiques in New York (Five Story) and L.A. (Union). However, Sam, Alex and Matt have big plans for Orley, like stores in Japan and Korea. “It’s been amazing,” says Matt. “Everyone has been really positive. Everyone has really good stuff today and wants to help us, and that means a lot to all of us.”
No matter how far they take their project, Orley will always remain tied to the family. “My mom taught me everything I know,” Matt deadpans. “No, seriously. After the New York Times article, she was like, ‘I can’t believe you didn’t mention me in the article, I taught you everything you know!’” Whether or not that’s an Orlifcation is hard to tell.
Photos by Isaac Green.