by Karen Alberg Grossman

FLY3 president Tommaso Bilancioni knows a thing or two about the science of knitwear. The company he now runs at age 42 was founded by his family in Italy in 1979. Originally a men’s sweater company with a nautical bent, its claim to fame was waterproof wool. Over the years, the brand expanded to include more menswear and in 1990 added a women’s component. But the real breakthrough came from creating and patenting a process to knit sweaters that are seamless and reversible; Bilancioni estimates that a good 70 percent of his production is now in this patented process, producing very special sweaters for FLY3 and for a few other luxury brands.

The brand’s current distribution, in order of sales volume, is in Italy, Germany, and North America (25 stores in the U.S., 15 in Canada), followed by Spain, France, and Japan. “We sell mostly to independents rather than department stores,” Bilancioni explains. “We believe this type of special product (averaging $400-$500 retail) should be romanced.”

Sid Stumacher has been a knitwear rep for many years and recently joined FLY3. “The joy of selling this collection is that it’s so distinctive,” he says. “I’ve had retailers tell me that many customers can’t wear wool against their skin so these blends with cotton inside, wool outside, are perfect.” Another fabric innovation: the company evolved from using pure wool and cashmere to blending the finest Italian merino yarns with recycled wool or cashmere. “From early on, we’ve focused on sustainability,” notes Bilancioni. “We use paper rather than plastic tape for our boxes; we use recycled labels and bags. But while we love the recycle concept, we needed to ensure the touch and feel of natural fibers. By blending the finest Italian yarns with recycled, we’ve been able to attain a perfect balance.”

Tommaso Bilancioni examining sketches and presenting product on Zoom

FLY3’s famous seamless reversible sweaters have been called engineering works of art, created with special shoulder construction for better shape, finished by hand, and garment-dyed. Their lightweight comes from the seamless construction, done on German and Japanese knitting machines, which eliminates the heaviness of seams. Amazingly, the sweaters are pre-shrunk and machine washable. “The wool is completely stabilized,” Bilancioni explains. “We suggest machine washing with just a tiny spoonful of soap.”

In fact, FLY3 has received awards for best manufacturing of superwash yarns. The brand’s “Softly” knits are a perfect blend of cashmere/cotton/bamboo. Its popular Weatherly reversible crew is ribbed knit cotton inside, wool outside. Its famous 4-ply water-repellent Slocum cardigan is made of superfine merino wool: fibers are less than 19.5 thousandths of a millimeter. Sums up Bilancioni, “Our sweaters have an innate vintage feel, respecting the peculiarities of the yarns and respecting the environment.” Romancing the sweater, indeed.

For more info, contact Sid Stumacher at


  1. Terrific line. We’ve carried for about 4 years. The Slocum cardigan has been a terrific item for us. We retail it for $795.00. I’ve never had an item that customers thank me for selling it to them. The basic line is called Archetipi. I run 3 or 4 items out of that offering. I’ve never had a single special or stock order that hasn’t been filled. I bought the line and started with 7 sweaters. I sold 15 Slocum’s last Fall.

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