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HPU students pioneer fashion technology

    By Pavel Stankov. February 3, 2013 - 7:18 pm


Embedding images into leather in a durable and aesthetically pleasing way has been craftsmen’s goal for centuries. Recently the challenging task was taken by fashion designers specializing in high end leather goods. Nevertheless, despite all attempts, nobody was able to achieve satisfactory results.  

That was until last year.

Facilitated by rich experience in the business, and after years of trial and error, Indonesian based entrepreneur Diego Lucatello managed to invent a process that successfully transfers images onto leather. Dealing with other business responsibilities and health problems, however, he nearly aborted the logical follow up of profiting from his innovation.


This opportunity might have been lost, were it not seized by Lucatello’s daughters Gioia and Chiara, and their friends Sahen and Lauren – all business students not anywhere else but at Hawai’i Pacific University.

Within only a few months they succeeded in patenting the technology, establishing a firm, finding investors and facilities, and opening and closing a kiosk at Ala Moana. As the potential became more apparent and interest grew, the partners decided to focus on larger scale manufacturing and cater to representatives and not only to end consumers.

Ambition and vision are also reflected in the company’s title – the enigmatic IO SARÓ (from Italian, “I will”).

Sahen Aguina-Uruchurtu, president of the enterprise, attributes its impressive success to the products’ quality and variety. Images are handpicked and discussed by all four, and subsequently sent to the facility in Italy to be embedded in local full-grain leather. The ten step process averages two weeks and works best on white cattle hide.

From there the raw product is shipped to Vietnam where it comes out as wallets, bags, Apple product cases, and others. Thanks to Mr. Lucatello’s connections, IO SARÓ was also able to open a store in the Asian country.


Like other small businesses propelled by an innovative idea, the company strives for a fresh and flexible approach: “We can customize virtually everything”, says Uruchurtu. Gioia Lucatello adds that the team continues to experiment with new designs in hope of appealing to a wide variety of customers.

IO SARÓ LLC uses the brand name OOUUFF for its first line; the acronym stands for “Only One Unique Unit Fashion Forged”. The crew agrees that uniqueness is a feature emphasized in their work and sought by their patrons:

“People are looking for things that make them stand out and that’s our main focus”, explains Lauren Nicole Gripp, the company’s financial specialist.

Much to the team’s delight, the originality of their product was acknowledged at a fashion expo in New York just last week: “People have been telling us our products are unique”, continues Gripp, “but to hear it from representatives of high end fashion companies is remarkable.”

OOUUFF is a truly international project, the kind of which one would expect to find involved with HPU.

While Mr. Lucatello is from Northern Italy, his daughters are half Filipino, born not far from Manila, and raised in Indonesia, where they attended international schools. The older Gioia went to college in New York for a year, but later rejoined with Chiara to study Marketing at HPU. “I was never much into big cities”, says Chiara and adds that Hawai’i reminds her of home.

Speakers of four languages, the sisters collectively tend to the artistic side of the venture, while 19-year old Chiara is specifically accountable for the company website and online sales. The Lucatellos say they are largely motivated to succeed as a sign of filial respect and homage to their father’s lifelong struggles.

Exposure to the mechanics of running a business while growing up likewise unites the four managers. Gripp’s experience with crunching numbers, for instance, stems from her father’s occupation as a mortgage broker in Southern California.

Uruchurtu, who is of mixed Basque-Cherokee-African ancestry, was similarly able to travel and observe the successful business of his self-made father in Japan. After going through a variety of jobs, Uruchurtu considered becoming an engineer before being convinced by Gripp to take International Business in college.

The couple looked into a number of schools but ultimately chose HPU because of the small classes and personal attention from instructors: “I don’t want to feel like a number”, Uruchurtu elaborates: “HPU is making the business possible as our professors have been very supportive.”


In regards team dynamics, synergy seems to be just as important as uniqueness for their self identification. “We motivate each other”, Uruchurtu continues. “We feed off each other’s energy. We mentor and comfort each other.” “Coming from diverse backgrounds, all of us contribute to the common project”, Gripp concludes.

Apparently, manufacturing upper scale products does not necessitate living upper scale as she also clarifies. Despite their families’ business experience, Gripp says, the partners at IO SARÓ have to handle all responsibilities by themselves, pay loans, and go through the hardships of student life like everyone else.

Energetic and entrepreneurial, the team is nevertheless not shy about their ambition to reach the top:

‘We are not just selling leather”, says Uruchurtu, “We are making a brand. (….) We have faith because we know OOUUFF is a guarantee. It’s something no one else does, and it allows people to use their own imagination.”

Sounds like a winning formula.

Make sure to like OOUUFF on Facebook.