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Studio Visit: The Knitwear Designers of Orley

We talked with Samantha Florence and the Orley brothers about the challenges of running a family business, the difference between youthful and young, and why, unlike many of their peers, they don't wear black.


The members of the design trio behind Orley (Matthew Orley, Alex Orley, and Samantha Florence) sit just a few feet apart from one another in their studio. Not that they mind their snug quarters one bit. Given that the knitwear label is a family business—Matthew and Alex are brothers, and Samantha and Matthew are engaged—the literal and figurative closeness just might be what enables the young designers to possess such a tight, uniform vision of their brand season after season.

But rather than seeing designing within a single category as a challenge, Orley embraces it as a groundbreaking opportunity to push the established norms and explore the untapped possibilities of knits, from texture (slinky to structured) to finished product (scarves to sweatpants). And the fashion industry is taking notice.

Even though the label only launched in 2012, Orley has quickly piqued the interest of its peers. The brand was selected to be part of the prestigious CFDA Fashion Incubator program, which has helped launch some of the hottest names in the industry today (like Public School and Tim Coppens, to name just a few).

Click "View Slideshow" to view the slideshow of our tour and interview with Orley.

—Katie Chang is a writer and shopkeeper based in Brooklyn. Follow her at @katieshewrote.

You're known for designing in a colorful palette. Why is that?

Alex: We're not eschewing anything, we're just being really true to who we are. It's a way of embracing our identity. Matt and I don't wear black. It's not a rule that we have, it's just a personal preference. When we start designing, we always ask if we should include black, and then we say no. In a lot of ways, we are our customer. That's an important aspect of what we do. If the product doesn't feel right for us, it generally won't be right outside the office.

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