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.”
Since its launch in 2004, Belladrum has grown from a small annual event to a household name that welcomes 18,500 festival goers per year, and has launched an independent record label, Belladrum Records.
Dunnet Bay Distillers is the story of a couple who long dreamed of starting their own business and combined their passions with a desire to get back to their roots to open their own distillery.
Combining rustic horse trekking through the Highlands with a balance of luxury, Wilder Ways offers a holiday experience like no other.
Meatsnacks Group is the story of four entrepreneurs who shared a vision of creating great tasting healthy snacks, and a passion for home-grown quality produce.
Offering a range of services to young people across the Highlands, Calman Trust has established itself as a support line for many young people who are looking to live independently.
Equal Adventure combines a love for the great outdoors with the importance of inclusion.
Paving change for those living with hidden disabilities, Friendly Access is an accessibility social enterprise based in the Highlands and Islands that is dedicated to creating a fairer society for all.
Aurora Sustainability are a circular economy and sustainability consultancy firm based in Forres
A Black Isle entrepreneur has been able to transform her customers’ online experience through the support of HIE’s Innovate Your Business Service.
Proterra’s involvement with IYB has created new possibilities for product development designed to meet specific client needs.
TrixPix’s is proof that wherever you are in the Highlands, applying innovative thinking and principles to business systems and outward marketing can help your business achieve standards of excellence.
Since its involvement with the HIE Innovation Programme, Glasstorm has devised new ways of working, and created strategies for achieving its future goals.
"To be able to share my ideas for business growth with HIE was fantastic from the outset as they understood my needs and how to further my future goals."
Russwood Ltd is a Scottish supplier of high-quality, sustainable timber products. As wood specialists, they pride themselves on offering their customers an extensive range and unrivalled technical advice
Yolo Ltd are an Inverness-based, new start business that aims to bring to market an innovative cosmetic product for Men.
We helped Linnhe Creative with advice on reshaping their business focus and strategy, and advised how they could develop from a software consultancy into a SaaS recruitment software provider.
HIE assisted the company with their grant application and with the procurement of professional management qualifications and CMI qualifications.