Exley Presents an Elegant Take on New England Outerwear
Forlorn brick buildings fill the streets of New Bedford. These are the former textile mills that buzzed with activity at the turn of the 20th century, churning out bolts of fabric for the sack suits and flounced skirts of the Gilded Age. But by the Great Depression, the industry had collapsed, and many of the city’s looms fell silent. Now, a century after New Bedford’s first textile boom, redevelopment efforts are starting to breathe life into some of these mills’ dusty factory floors, and new garment manufacturers are setting up shop right here on the banks of the Acushnet River.
One of the latest brands to join the fray is Exley, a recently launched menswear company that specializes in modern outerwear inspired by its South Coast setting, “a region that is rugged and pioneering, intellectual and loyal,” says cofounder Annie Campbell.
Ask Campbell and her husband, Chris Vroman, what sets the company apart, and they’ll tell you it’s the unparalleled craftsmanship. Using single-needle sewing machines, their employees cut, sew, and quilt every garment by hand. “We’re not a brand that wants to be about splashing a big logo somewhere,” Vroman says. Instead, if you want to spot an Exley piece, look for the telltale small grosgrain detail on the back of the collar or sleeve, or the diagonal seam that runs from the torso to the chest.
Considering New Bedford’s textile heritage, it’s slightly ironic that Campbell and Vroman import a majority of their fabrics from overseas, but their quest for superior craftsmanship has led them to the finest mills in Europe. They also seek out suppliers stateside, including down-alternative insulation from New York’s PrimaLoft.
In their upcoming fall/winter line, expect to see neutral colors (think rust, charcoal, and ash) and refined angular tailoring. The collection’s standout piece? The “Topcoat,” a classic overcoat with a wide collar, front-panel pintuck detail, and French horn buttons.
While the brand has an e-commerce site and sells in retail stores from California to Japan, it has yet to crack the Boston market. But after a strong showing at men’s New York Fashion Week this past July, expect to see a lot more of Exley on the East Coast—in New Bedford and beyond.