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Gray's team helps heritage business stay competitive through knowledge exchange

Monday 01 July 2019

Amy Gair, Project Manager and Designer for the Montrose Rope & Sail Company discusses how a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Grays School of Art, at Robert Gordon University (RGU) has supported the pre-launch of the company’s new sub brand Veske.

Tell us about the Montrose Rope & Sail Company.

First established in 1789, the Montrose Rope & Sail Company have a rich heritage story of craftsmanship and quality product design, all manufactured in Scotland. Traditionally, they hand-manufactured rope and hand-sewn sails for the local fishing industry. However, as this industry diminished, the company had to innovate to survive. Today, they are well known globally for their high-quality kit bags and tarpaulin covers that they manufacture for companies within the oil and gas industry and outdoor markets.

What is the new sub brand?

Veske is a new sub brand of the Montrose Rope and Sail Company. We have built on the heritage of the company as inspiration to develop Veske. By introducing innovative materials, product designs and hardware, it has helped to develop a new aesthetic which forms the new range and will help us to reach a high end lifestyle accessories market.

Tell us about the KTP with RGU.

The project aim of this particular KTP project is to design, develop and brand a new range of products, utilising the company heritage story and aiming the product at a luxury fashion lifestyle market.

We’re 18 months into the project and there are two very different sides to the project. One is the design and development of the new range brand and product, the other is the manufacturing of the product and working with the manufacturing staff at the company.

During the first stages of the project, we took some time to strategically plan the best way to tackle the brief. This included using the companies’ membership through Scottish Enterprise to gain expert advice, which later resulted in the decision to create our new sub brand, Veske.  

The Montrose Rope and Sail Company decided to work in collaboration with Gray’s School of Art on this KTP project because it was an opportunity to develop the design side of the business and also target new markets.

The expertise through the KTP project team which Josie Steed, Fashion and Textiles Course Leader and Keith Gray, Fashion and Textiles Lecturer, are a part of, has been important to the design development of the product collection.

The mix of utilising the companies’ industry contacts and the connections through the academic side has meant that we’ve had a wealth of information to help us with the project so far.

What has the impact of the KTP been on Montrose Rope & Sail?

We’re only 18 months into the two-year project, with the launch of the product collection still to come but there has been a number of different impacts so far.

We’ve visited two international textile and machinery tradeshows, one in Paris and one in Frankfurt. This has given the company the opportunity to source new fabrics for current product collections and also new products. Going to see these tradeshows is also really important in terms of keeping up with industry trends and advancements.

There have also been opportunities to develop the current business. We worked with Genoa Black through Scottish Enterprise to develop a new strategic marketing plan for the current business, which gave the company an opportunity to bring the company’s marketing back in house.

As well as working collaboratively with the Fashion and Textiles department at Gray’s we’ve also worked with other disciplines. We developed a live project with Visual Communications senior lecturer, Iain Morrison, for his fourth year students which saw five students put forward branding ideas for our Veske for us to select from. The panel came to a unanimous decision and chose Samuel Donnelly as the winner of this project. His branding ideas worked with the aesthetic we were trying to create.

We, hopefully, have a few other collaborative projects in the pipeline with the Fashion Management course through RGU’s School of Creative and Cultural Business.

What’s the future?  

As we’ve just pre-launched the new brand name, the product launch will come later this year around November. We’ll be launching our new website in the coming months which will allow those interested to be able to sign up for first information on when the product will be released.

We hope in the future Veske will become recognised for high quality, craftsmanship and design in the north-east of Scotland. As the project started as a collaboration, it would be great to keep this momentum by taking part in projects with other brands and designers.

One of the most effective ways in which businesses and industry can capitalise on the extensive knowledge base within universities is through a Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. Funded by Innovate UK, KTPs are a UK-wide programme which for the past 40 years has helped businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within academia.

So far, 93 KTPs have been awarded to RGU with a total value of over £7 million. Nine of these are currently active. This gives RGU a KTP grant-award success rate of 95%. Read more about KTPs at RGU in the second issue of the Research magazine.

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