Orley Milano Unica
by Stephen Garner
Matthew Orley, Samantha Orley, and Alex Orley

This past January, the international textile trade show Milano Unica announced a new partnership with the CFDA called The Fabric Program, which is intended to educate emerging American designers in “Made in Italy” methods and techniques.

Womenswear designer Ryan Roche, accessories designer Gigi Burris, and menswear label Orley were selected for the inaugural trip to explore the finest Italian production mills (whom also exhibit at Milano Unica) and to work closely with artisanal merchants to create a signature textile that will be integrated with their spring/summer 2017 collections. Some of the participating mills include: Albini, Remmert, Maglificio Maggia, Crevacuore, and Olmetex, to name a few.

We recently caught up with Alex Orley, one-third of the Orley team, to chat about what techniques they were learning at these mills and some of the interesting experiences they had along the way.

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Q: What types of techniques did you learn at Milano Unica’s mills?

A: One of the most interesting things we saw was how all of the mills combined a commitment to innovation with a strong sense of history. All of the mills we are working with have really invested heavily in research into new types of truly innovative weaving and dying machinery and they are combining these tools with some really traditional, craft-based ways of making fabric. Several of the mills we saw had actually superimposed new technology onto looms that were several decades old. The end product is something totally new but really rooted in history.

Q: What has been the most interesting part of this learning experience?

A: Seeing the commitment that these mills have to their own histories is really amazing. All of them are third or fourth generation-run factories, and each maintains an incredible archive of their fabrications, all of which are really inspiring, whether they have jacquards from the early 1900s or Balenciaga fabrics from the 1950s or Chanel from the 1970s. The depth of the work is really special.

Q: What aspect of the trip had the most impact on you?

A: Visiting Crevacuore was a highlight. Seeing their archive of fabrics that have been used by everyone from Louis Vuitton to Balenciaga to Prada, it was easy to get a sense of the depth of their skill set.

Q: How do you plan on incorporating these new techniques into your spring/summer ‘17 collection?

A: We are going to be using some really beautiful fabrics, that is definitely the starting point.