Crùbag is no ordinary textiles company. Borne out of a desire to share the hidden ocean, it fuses a knowledge of science with luxury fashion. The result; a high-end accessory and interiors brand, dedicated to marine ecology and its ambitions set on being stocked in some of the world’s most renowned department stores.
Founder, Jessica Giannotti, a marine science graduate had little to no knowledge of fabrics and fibres, but started her business because she loved aqua life. Jessica had trained in a marine lab not an artist studio. She was used to microscopes not ink and print manufacturing.
So, turning the fascination of phytoplankton and the strange organisms, she had seen under her lens into an evocative, sustainable design business, was a very unexpected turn of events. One that was not without its challenges, especially when Jessica was pushing new print and manufacturing techniques.
Sometimes a good idea isn’t enough. I wanted to develop a product that could compete with brands such as Hermes, and sell in Liberty and Selfridges. But for this I had to have consistency of quality
HIE’s Innovation Team played a pivotal role in supporting Crùbag’s growth and development, providing introductions to its expansive network, offering mentorship, small grant funding and courses. Accessing HIE’s innovation services enabled Jessica to improve Crùbag’s existing products, expand its range and move towards scaling up.
“I work with digital printing, which is a relatively new development, and not without its hurdles. It’s advancing very fast, but it’s not the same as screen printing. With my technique I don’t have to separate the pigments so I can show the world of the oceans without losing the shape and the vivid colours." Jessica tells us.
“I’m able to work with photography and research images and it gives me a freedom that another type of printing would never give me. But with this novel technique I faced many issues trying, from the technicality of getting ink penetration right to bringing the right depth and richness of colour alive on the fabric.
“I needed to improve the product and push the boundaries of what was possible and I was able to do this with HIE’s support. The innovation project allowed me to experiment and find the right partners. Without HIE’s help it would have been impossible. I am now able to select and know how to produce the right quality for each type of fabric.
“I can now focus on my production and supply chain and match it to each specific product. Through HIE’s innovation services I was able to find not just one solution for all but a specific solution for all the different materials I use and that’s given me the overall consistency which I’ve never had before.”
Now based in a studio in the old teaching lab at the Scottish Marine Institute in Oban, Jessica officially started Crùbag in December 2013, in what she describes as a very ‘subconscious process.’ That process and the voyage of innovation can feel very isolating at times.
Jessica accessed HIE’s innovation services very early on her innovation journey and said: “HIE has always been on my side from the very beginning. They have helped me access knowledge which has allowed me to become the kind of company that can have a product which can be sold at the best shops in the world.”
A huge advocate of innovation, Jessica believes it’s something that we can all embrace:
“Innovation is an amazing tool for everyone to use. It’s like a motor, a flowing energy that allows you to get out of your comfort zone, think and transfer knowledge. You can apply those practises to other areas in your business and invent new things that could be helpful and keep you competitive.”
Jessica’s story follows the ebbs and flows of the ocean: “I wanted to combine science, design and innovation in a really specific way. I had to learn a lot and made many mistakes but it’s been really rewarding and incredible.
With HIE’s support Jessica has gone on to fulfil her childhood dream which was inspired by a gift from her grandfather: “When I was four he gave me complete encyclopaedia of oceanography and it opened my eyes to a different world. So, when I moved to Scotland it all came back and I just thought yeah I need to do this. And I did it and it wouldn’t have been possible without HIE’s support. It’s been a very generous, very human, informative experience. An essential one too as its really given me that extra edge.”
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