UHI graduate nets award for innovative seaweed-based clothes dyes

The work of a Highland-based fashion designer is aiming to challenge the status quo of unsustainable practices in the fashion industry through the innovative use of seaweed-based dyes, a vision which has earned her the 2022 UHI Alumni Disruptor for Good Award.

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Jessica and UHI's Professor Neil Simco

After graduating with a BSc in marine science from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), a partner of UHI, Venezuelan-born Jessica Giannotti was inspired to found her own company after noticing the comparative absence of marine-based designs in contemporary fashion accessories. Crùbag, which means ‘crab’ in Gaelic, was founded in 2013 and creates sustainable fashion accessories which use patterns and imagery to make marine science more accessible to the public.

The award was bestowed on Jessica in recognition of her work on SeaDyesTM which uses algae-based dyes as an alternative to synthetic ones. While synthetic dyes pose a risk to marine life and human health due to chemical exposure, SeaDyes provides an environmentally friendly alternative which, rather than competing with food crops for arable land, instead helps to revitalise coastal communities and contributes towards Scotland’s blue economy.

Jessica said: “I am delighted and grateful to win the 2022 UHI Alumni Disruptor for Good Award. I started Crùbag to inspire a deeper connection with the natural world, share the unseen beauty of the ocean and communicate important marine science. This award recognises the work we do at Crùbag, which is driven by love and powered by interdisciplinary collaborations, creativity and innovation. Being a disruptor sometimes means putting ourselves and others out of our comfort zone. SAMS has been a key factor in believing in the vision and enabling us, bringing together art, fashion and marine science.

“Crùbag is now expanding its ocean-focused practice into materials innovation with our new natural dyes made from seaweed - SeaDyes. We want to be part of the systemic change and develop sustainable materials from the ocean that are beautiful and better than plastic. We can do better and we must.

“Being a UHI graduate is an honour. UHI is a forward-thinking institution with core values similar to Crùbag. I hope this award will inspire other students to believe in themselves, think outside the box and explore alternative career possibilities that may not initially seem obvious.”

Alison Wilson, Director of Advancement and Alumni Engagement at UHI, said: “UHI is building on its founding principles to create a future that supports our climate, our health and our people. Real change relies on the vision of trailblazers like Jessica, whose originality and resourcefulness has led to the creation of a sustainable solution to the problems posed by synthetic dyes.

“We are proud that Jessica’s enthusiasm for marine science was nurtured at UHI and even prouder to award her with this accolade in recognition of her willingness to use innovative thinking to address a challenge which is both local and global and continues to have a huge impact on us all.”

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