Showcasing the vibrancy of creative businesses

A design by Doppelganger, one of the companies from Iceland taking part in XpoNorth

By Fiona Chautard

As well as its excellent programme for music and film, XpoNorth this year will host one of its largest programmes for fashion, textiles and craft. Building on the success of previous years, the programme includes professional panels, workshops and an exhibition showcasing the vibrancy of the creative businesses in these sectors and their growing contribution to the economy across the Highlands and Islands.

Recognised as an area that nurtures its creative talent, the Highlands and Islands is home to some of the most outstanding and successful creative businesses. Emergents,, XpoNorth’s Craft, Fashion and Textiles Network, estimate that there are approximately 350 crafts, fashion and textiles busi-nesses in the region. An evaluation made in 2013 into Highlands and Islands Enterprise support for the creative industries highlighted key successes, helping put the region on the map as a creative centre.

The XpoNorth programme is part of a larger professional support programme which is available uniquely to designers and makers in the Highlands and Islands throughout the year. The focus is to nurture creative talent and creative businesses through general and specific support including mentor-ing, training, advice and networking. This support is provided by XpoNorth Crafts, Fashion and Textiles through Emergents which is funded by HIE (through European ERDF funds) and is a key part of HIE’s support strategy for the creative industries in the High-lands and Islands.

The networking offered by XpoNorth is an invaluable resource for businesses which are operating in sometimes very isolated rural commu-nities and includes not just partici-pation in programmed networking events, but also the opportunity to con-nect with other like minded business owners and creatives in an informal setting, a unique aspect of being a business based in this part of Scotland.

XpoNorth provides a platform for the designers to get together and to discuss what matters to them and the development of their creative business. This year the programme includes an international collaboration with Iceland, bringing together a diverse group of Highlands and Islands and Icelandic designers and makers to talk, explore collaborate and inspire one another.

Coming together earlier in the year at the Icelandic Design festival, Design March, in Reykjavik, the group are showcasing their work at XpoNorth as well as participating in a panel discussion, Exploring Icelandic Markets, and meeting up informally to exchange ideas and investigate one another’s location, environment, influ-ences, skills, experience, materials and techniques.

This year’s panel sessions include focused discussions on topics which are important to the growing com-munity of professional designers and makers based in the Highlands and Islands and beyond. They include; panels on manufacturing and making, new approaches to crowd-funding, colour psychology and building your Instagram profile.

XpoNorth 2017: Fiona Chautard is a creative business coach and will be chairing the panel session ‘It’s all about Making’ at 10am on Wednesday 7 June at La Scala Cinema, Inverness.