Italians do it better. And not just pasta and tomato sauce—we’re talking fashion. Perhaps that’s why it was such a natural partnership when, earlier this year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced that it was partnering with the world-renowned textiles tradeshow Milano Unica to create The Fabric Program, a program organized to give designers first-hand experience working with Italian mills and help raise awareness for “Made In Italy” fabrics and techniques.
For this inaugural installment of the program, three designers were selected to tour the iconic Milanese textile mills. Cult-favorite knitwear brand Orley was selected as the menswear representative, the ultra-feminine Ryan Roche was chosen as the womenswear participant, and accessories designer Gigi Burris rounded out the group. The designers not only got to see the mills in person and view the fabrics that are made there, but also got to work directly with mills to create their own fabrics to use in their Spring 2017 collections. In addition to walking the runways during New York Fashion Week, the fabrics created will also be displayed at Milano Unica in a dedicated installation.
“We already produce almost the entirety of the collection in Italy and work almost exclusively with Italian mills, so this really allows us to expand on the vocabulary of the brand as it already exists,”said Alex Orley, who runs Orley along with his brother Matthew and sister-in-law Samantha. “There wasn’t a single mill that we met with that didn’t have something unique to offer in terms of the look and development of the collection.”
The fabrics on display wowed all the designers, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise. “The tour we organized here in Italy represented a unique opportunity to show the designers the best of Italian craftsmanship,” said Ercole Botto Poala, president of Milano Unica. “For the mills, the visit represented the chance to share their incredible heritage and technical knowledge, and the designers experienced the excellence of the fabrics and touched first-hand the innovations developed inside the mills.”
Orley invited Barneys along by documenting the trip and the variety of the mills and fabrics they experienced for our latest Travel Diary. Read on for Alex’s take on the adventure, and keep your eyes peeled for the results of their efforts hitting the catwalk come September.