One of the world’s most prestigious textile fairs, Milano Unica showcases the best of Italian-made textiles. Last month, the fair partnered with the CFDA to take three emerging American brands and Fashion Fund grads—Ryan Roche, Orley, and Gigi Burris—to Italy, where they were introduced to renowned fabric mills that work with many of the fashion industry’s most influential and storied houses. “Young designers represent the future of fashion, and Milano Unica is eager to support them through the opportunity to establish direct and privileged contacts with the best high-end textile and accessory companies in Italy,” Milano Unica’s president, Ercole Botto Poala, told Fashion Unfiltered of the Fabric Program. “The partnership with CFDA is a win-win collaboration for both Italian companies and American designers,” he continued. “This is particularly true for Italian mills that can show and share their invaluable heritage and knowhow, as well as the innovative technologies they are developing every season.” Here, we bring you the tale of Orley and the brand’s Italian journey. Tune in tomorrow when we speak with Gigi Burris, and don’t miss our story on Ryan Roche, here.
The Orley crew—Michigan-born brothers Alex and Matthew Orley, and Matthew’s wife, Samantha—had a head start on their Milano Unica tour. After all, the brand, which launched for Fall 2012, exclusively uses Italian textiles, and already worked with a handful of mills on the Fabric Program itinerary. According to Alex, being chosen by Milano Unica and the CFDA allowed them to further those relationships. “We basically road tripped all over Italy for a week, going to all these mills and developing the collection,” Alex, who focuses on design, told Fashion Unfiltered. He took the trip with Sam, leaving big brother Matthew back in New York to, as Alex told it, “hold down the fort.”
After listening to tales about Alex and Sam’s trip, it sounds like Matthew got the raw end of the deal. “We went to one mill that has an archive of fabrics starting from 1940,” recalled Alex with excitement in his voice. “There were Balenciaga fabrics from the 1950s, Chanel fabrics from 1970s, and Louis Vuitton fabrics from the late ’90s. To have a mill like that engaged in our business is really helpful for us.”
For an independent company like Orley, the support of these top-tier Italian mills, as well as organizations like Milano Unica and the CFDA, is invaluable. “We allocate resources in a really focused way,” Alex explained. “There’s not a ton of wiggle room. And the fact that all these mills are developing specialized fabrications for us free of charge…the amount of value that gives a small brand like us is indescribable. It opens so many doors to things we probably wouldn’t be able to try otherwise.”