First up, can you tell me who you are, and a wee bit about your business?
Hello, my name is Jessica Giannotti. I’m an Italo-Venezuelan designer living in bonnie Scotland. I founded Crùbag in Dec 2013 after finishing my studies in marine science.
We are an emerging design studio based at an old teaching marine laboratory at the Scottish Marine Institute near Oban in Argyll. We are dedicated to producing colourful luxury textiles inspired by the oceans and science. We love sustainability, craftsmanship and the sea so we combined the three!
Our product range includes scarves, foulards, pocket squares, bow ties, napkin sets and cushions. We only work with natural fibres and our products are all designed by us, printed in the UK and finished by hand in Scotland, England and / or Italy.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day varies depending on deadlines and pending projects. I arrive at the studio in the morning and first of all, I make a nice coffee and then review and update my to-do list. I go for a walk at the beach with the dog to kick start the day.
Most days I have to do admin work, like working on cash flow projections, bookkeeping, VAT submissions and applications.
Working with imagery and content creation for our website, social media, our science outreach projects and printed materials are a key part of our work as well. We just launched a new website so we spent a lot of time doing that. At the moment, I have to wear so many hats! Developing a collection takes a long time, I work on gathering inspiration every day. However, designing which I love so much, as well as working on sampling and production is done in cycles.
Where does your passion for the industry stem from?
Crùbag is a multidisciplinary studio. We work at the interface of ocean sciences, textiles, design and environmental education.
I always loved textiles, colours and textures: the fascination of how beautiful pieces are made with a variety of materials, how good design evokes an emotional response and how culture is expressed through textiles.
Did you study? Where?
When I came to Scotland I decided to fulfil my childhood dream which was to study marine science. I studied BSc Marine Science at the Scottish Association for Marine Science, University of the Highlands and Islands. I’m currently completing a course in Managing Luxury Brands from Bocconi University. I was very lucky to have been selected for the inaugural 2015 Scotland Can Do Scale intensive entrepreneurship training programme at Stirling University with professors from MIT and Harvard. For the last four years I immersed myself in the world of the textile industry, visiting fashion weeks, doing textile design courses, workshops and working with wonderful mentors.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
The reactions of people when they see our designs and touch our textiles. The spark in their face is the best feedback we can ever get! The most proud moment was when I took my first samples ever to my mentor Pamela Conacher, from Emergents. Materialising a vision from an abstract idea in your head is priceless. Sometimes I come to the studio and see all scarves hanging on the rail and still can’t believe it is real.
Who are the influential figures you look up to for inspiration?
The American author and journalist, Joan Didion taught me not to be afraid of my mind, and the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her colourful life inspired me to use unexpected colour combinations. They both prevailed despite major adversities.
Alexander MacQueen’s also had an impact on me. His designs are poetry for the eyes. The complexity, passion and rawness of his work is beyond any zeitgeist.
My mother who is a painter is also of great inspiration to me.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for the near future?
One special project that is very close to our heart is the continuation of the Murray collection into the Challenger collection, using the original challenger reports. The HMS Challenger set sail from Portsmouth, England in 1872 and spent nearly four years exploring the world’s oceans. Sir John Murray and his colleagues made seminal discoveries and carefully produced reports, which helped establish modern oceanography. They are stored at the marine institute where we are based. The illustrations on these reports are going to be the basis for our new collection.
Furthermore, our upcoming A/W collection will bring to the surface mysterious and unseen creatures from thousands of metres deep seamounts. Here, a combination of science imagery, grounded dark and rich colours and hand made drawings will give the collection an opulent natural history aesthetics. For our S/S 2019 collection I can only say that it is going to be a tropical exuberance of colours and lightness.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I love learning about all these scientific projects. Establishing collaborations with scientists is so exciting and personal, it gives me the sense of community and bouncing ideas is fundamental to stay sane. The design process is one of my favourite parts. Getting lost when designing, forgetting the world around me and being completely present and immersed in the creation process after a period of incubation and latency where the inspiration has been absorbed and worked by the subconscious mind before it re-emerges into the surface is just pure joy.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career so far and how could it be avoided?
I jumped headfirst into the fire and had no idea how to design, print or run a textile based business. I never wanted to be a designer until that moment and had to figure out how I could do it – I didn’t know about fabric! It took me at least three to four additional years to learn about the industry. I took time to take design courses, and also to learn production. For that reason, I didn’t grow as fast as I hoped because I needed to learn so much. I was naïve and very enthusiastic but that is not enough. I decided to step back and focus on learning first, getting the product right. This is a huge industry, everyone is amazing and specialised. People study to be a designer for years and I didn’t have that. It’s really difficult to make it, and so I decided to let Crùbag grow organically. It was the right decision.
What does your workspace look like?
Our studio looks like a hybrid marine lab/design studio! It is rather eclectic, spacious and we have plenty of natural light pouring in. It is a second home.
Who is your design inspiration?
Nature has an incredible capacity to surprise me with its unusual patterns and intrinsic forms. The oceans are a never ending source of design inspiration.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best and the worst piece of advice I have been given was by my dad who said I could do whatever I put my mind to and be whoever I want to be.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
The textile industry welcomed me with open arms. I look for the textile industry to continue to be a platform for development, exchange and inspiration. Amazing new technologies and materials are being constantly developed while traditional skills are being nurtured and preserved, I love the combination of cutting-edge technologies, innovation and traditional craftsmanship. I wish for the textile industry to make it easier for companies and designers to be more environmentally sustainable and to have a clearer and traceable supply chain, to be the voice of sustainability and lead by example.
Any final thoughts?
We would love people to join our campaigns of knowledge based activism. Our current campaign is called The Power of Small. Good things come in small doses. Every third breath we take has oxygen produced from phytoplankton photosynthesis, and these tiny marine organisms are vital for us. We live in blue planet and the oceans are our live support system. We donate 10% of our profits to scientific institutions to support continued marine research.
Find Crubag online:
website / instagram / twitter / facebook