It will soon be that almighty confusing time when I'll be straddling seasons – gushing and gawping at spring summer 2013, wearing autumn winter 2012-3, re-wearing spring summer 2012 and then chucking in some really old seasons in just for good measure. And that's taking the physical weather out of the equation. For instance I found myself nuzzling my face up against the softest of knitwear in the height of June in Florentine sunshine that had my skin peeling. At Pitti Uomo, if I see something I vaguely like at the tradeshow, I normally make eye contact and hope that the person at the stand makes the first move and speak up. If they don't, then I shuffle away gormlessly. Blame it on innate Chinese awkwardness. When I caught a glimpse of Orley's S/S 13 knitwear though, I think I may have stopped in my tracks, beamed a broad smile and immediately swooped in to find out more about what I was looking at.
Orley are brothers Alex and and Matthew Orley and his now-girlfriend Samantha Florence who all met at summer camp in Canada. Over the last decade, the trio gained experience in PR, retail and all facets of knitwear at the likes of Helmut Lang, rag & bone and Thom Browne. In 2011, this tight-knit (see what I did there?) three decided to do their own thing with a debut collection of knitwear for A/W 12-3. Orley is both fun and precise at the same time – fun because their way of interpreting references are idiosyncratic and precise because they have a dedication to using the best Italian knitwear manufacterers and generally getting the product right. The A/W 12-3 collection launched with a spare collection of menswear-focused hoodies, jumpers, cardis and scarves but it's their simple yet effective selection of colours and design that make the product compelling.
Inevitably, as with other highly focused knittists that have emerged in the last few years such as Sibling and Monsieur Lacenaire, the demand for womenswear sizing soon comes calling. Therefore the S/S 13 collection is skewed towards both sexes. Islamic art is remixed in a pastel palette, fused with twentieth century modernism and 1960s graphic design. If you squint a little at the moodboard they showed me on their iPad, you can see some pastel hues courtesy of a little outfit I wore at Paris Fashion Week, which goes some way to explaining why I was so drawn to the collection when I saw it at Pitti. You avoid sacharrine submersion with the pastel hues when you have two tone knits, mixing dark brick or teal blue with a murkier olive green, rendered as leather collared knit bikers. T-shirts and thinner knits solve the problem of knitwear in the summer but the chunkier offerings are equally appealing as they utilise interesting stich techniques combining their unusual colour pairings. Knitted ties in enlarged houndstooth, retro zig-zags, cam, pixi-florals as well as that Islamic floral motif would tempt either guy or gal to hone their tie-knotting skills, and somehow for me a knitted tie doesn't feel as awkward as wearing a real one.
Jumpers from Orley's A/W 12-3 collection that are available at selected stockists and are so lovely that even Hong Kong's 34 degree hot-n-humid cesspit hasn't deterred me from wearing them.