MILANMilano Unica organizers hosted an informal dinner for Council of Fashion Designers of America Vogue Fund finalists Alex Orley and Samantha Orley of Orley, knitwear designer Ryan Roche and milliner Gigi Burris in Milan on Wednesday to usher in its Fabric Program and Made in Italy tour.

The Fabric Program, unveiled in January at Milano Unica New York, is the fruit of a partnership between the fair organizer and CFDA that for the first time gives CFDA members the chance to work directly with Italy’s top mills and to, ultimately, help American designers learn more about Italian mills and Made in Italy craftsmanship.

Ercole Botto Poala, president of Milano Unic, said this is the first such initiative for the fair. “Together with CFDA, we chose the right designers for the tour. It was a mutual process,” he explained in the garden of Milanese restaurant Innocenti Evasioni, where the dinner was held.

Over a period of about five days, Milano Unica organizers took the designers on a tour throughout the nation’s textile heartlands.

“It really strikes your heartstrings to see the dedication that goes into these fabrics and to see families working together,” said Roche, who noted that there are few mills in the U.S. with comparable yarns and fabrics.

Fabric firms such as Cotonificio Albini, ribbon-maker Remmert and novelty button factory Linea Mitiaro were among the historic Italian manufacturing firms that struck designers on the Made in Italy trail organized by Milano Unica.

“This trip will boost my brand to a new level,” Burris said. “This is craftsmanship you can only find in Europe.”

The designers are expected to work with artisans to create their own signature textiles for their resort and spring 2017 collections that will be shown at New York Fashion Week and with an installation at Milano Unica next September.