Orylag, inventing a new French softness

An exclusive interview with Jean Boutteaud, President of the cooperative of Orylag breeders.

In the heart of the Première Vision Paris show, Maison d’Exceptions is an area exclusively for fashion designers and luxury brands. This unique showcase welcomes 27 ateliers with rare know-hows, and offers an international and diverse selection of exceptional techniques.

For the February 2017 edition, Orylag joins Maison d’Exceptions for the first time.

 

One of the key specifics of Orylag is that the breeding cooperative guarantees complete traceability. This quality, certified by the Origine France Garantie label, must be reassuring to clients…

Our main activity is breeding very high quality rabbits intended for human consumption and marketed under the Rex du Poitou brand. As we don’t like waste, we began researching how to improve the quality of the animal’s fur, its leather, in order to obtain high-quality products both in terms of its meat and its fur. We have tied orylag to a specific territory, to France, and more particularly to Poitou Charentes, where there are twelve small orylag breeders. We only market what we produce, 60,000 animals. We put our names to everything we sell. This traceability is an extremely important guarantee for our customers.

Created by the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA), you emphasise that orylag is the result of natural crossbreeding and selection, which we don’t always know…

There is no genetic modification, no GMOs. These are not transgenic animals. That is very important to us. And it also explains the artisanal, non-industrial dimension of our work. Natural cross breeding and selection takes a long time. We do things strictly naturally, and strive for the best conditions under which to breed animals. This is also a question of choice, and ethics.

 

What can you tell us about the invention of orylag yarn and fabric, which you’ll be presenting for the first time officially at Maison d’Exceptions?

Our research was focused on creating a distinct fibre with a unique feel. One of the specific features of orylag is that it’s made up uniquely of very fine and very homogeneous down. And this gives it an extraordinary feel. So why not select other crosses with other rabbits to develop a breed with a longer, finer fur that you can spin and weave? We’ve had the idea for over 15 years, but it has taken all this time to select the animal strains and study the feasibility of transforming the fur into a yarn. The new orylag has fur ranging between 40 and 50 mm long, much longer than the 18 to 20 mm of the original orylag. We use this fur to create various threads, all of which are exceptionally fine, from 12 to 13 microns. And it adapts very well, very homogenously, to dyeing. Orylag yarns offer a wide range of possibilities: from creating a 30 to 70% mix with silk or cashmere, for example, to weaving or knitting it. We have invented a new fibre. We first experimented with weaving it, and then we made knit creations and fabrics, which were rather thick, firmly-set knit fabrics, with mixes of fibres with the feel and luminosity of orylag fur. Thinner and lighter knits will be introduced in the future. We are just at the beginning of this innovation.

Describe how you work with your clients?
A study phase based on a rather advanced project allows us to produce a first development, for simple creations, in about two weeks, and that can go to six months. Since the production of orylag is rare and quite exclusive, our focus is on quality. This isn’t an industrial material worked in large volumes.

How did you come to get involved in the cooperative that you are currently heading up?
Basically, I come from an agriculture background. I have a farm and I grow organic vegetables, and raise organic pigs in addition to breeding orylag rabbits. Often in the agricultural sector, the processing and marketing side of products are entrusted to third parties, but that means that you then lose control of the product. As we like what we do and, in fact, are proud of it, joining the cooperative was a way to stay involved as far down the line as possible into what becomes of the product, according to our own ethics.

 

Interview by Stéphanie Bui, founder and editor @The Daily Couture.com

PLEASE NOTE: Maison d’Exceptions is exclusively for the men’s and women’s luxury market – apparel, leather goods, footwear and jewellery. In order to guarantee optimal working conditions for the ateliers and visitors at the show, Première Vision reserves the right to limit access to the space.