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As the sizzling ath-leisure trend spreads through the most elite echelons of fashion, Italian mills are finally jumping on the category’s lucrative bandwagon.

This story first appeared in the September 21, 2016 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Known primarily for wool suiting, luxurious knits and silky runway fabrics, Milano Unica’s fall 2017 collections tackled the burgeoning trend.

Tollegno 1900 unfurled The Rainmaker — a collection of fabrics that it says bridges the gap between formal and technical. Woolen fibers were enriched with polyurethane or polyurethane-graphite membranes, jersey backing made of viscose or elasticated nylon and water-repellent finish.

“In terms of technology, we can certainly compete when it comes to finishes,” said Tollegno 1900 chief executive officer Lincoln Germanetti.

Fellow wool mill Reda 1865, based in Biella, Italy, unfurled Reda Active, which the company said infuses its elegant look with an enhanced level of comfort. Its key trait is its thermo-regulating, “warm sense” yarns, utilizing one of the most technologically advanced fabrics the company has ever invested in.

On the other end of the spectrum, advanced materials such as Roica spandex, a registered trademark of the Asahi Kasei Corp., is putting its stamp on every realm, from sportswear to the medical industry.

Roica is a stretch fabric that is manufactured through dry spinning in Japan and Europe. This season, the Roica technology was used in a relaxing Inemuri eye mask made with refined stretch jersey, produced by Italian jersey maker Jackytex.

As larger players like Under Armour, Nike Inc., Adidas AG and Puma SE continue to woo Millennials who are not willing to splurge on wool suits and refined knits, Italian mills will be under pressure to continue to develop  and embrace performance wear.

“Our machines are the best, but it is the way we use them that makes all the difference,” said Giovanni Bonotto, creative director and owner of fashion-forward textile maker Bonotto, which for fall recently unveiled one-of-a-kind upscale scuba materials and air-pocketed cotton fabrics for ensembles destined for the runway.

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