“We build products to last because the most sustainable way to live is to buy less”, STORY mfg. writes in its brand manifesto. It’s rare that a brand actively asks its customers to buy fewer clothes, but STORY mfg. is not your average brand. Husband and wife team Saeed and Katy Al-Rubeyi are dedicated to lowering the climate impact of their label.
If you could encapsulate the entire STORY mfg. brand into one word it would be natural. The label only uses biodegradable natural materials — cotton and linen — and any offcuts will either be repurposed to become new items, used as tags on clothing, or get turned into nutrient-rich fertilizer. In addition, the buttons on each piece are made from nuts, and the clothing is packaged in biodegradable cornstarch, while the brand’s production facilities are almost entirely powered by renewable energy.
An eco-focused approach is all well and good, but what do the clothes look like? There’s no point making a zero-waste product if no one wants to buy it. Thankfully, the brand delivers. With a focus on loose-fit genderless streetwear, STORY mfg. hits in the strange intersection between Bode-style handmade high fashion craft, Online Ceramic’s streetwear dead-head prints, and something your grandmother would have made you if she was a die-hard hippy. The result is a product that at once transcends trends and feels of the moment.
A lot of brands that focus on sustainability seem to forget one vital aspect — the people who make their clothes. Thankfully, STORY mfg. isn’t just concerned about the environment, but the people who inhabit it too. The brand's clothes are made in an atelier in Auroville, India, which employs over a hundred local dyers, weavers, embroiderers, and tailors who basically do the entire production process by hand. “Our work is heavily craft-based and involves both teaching and learning new techniques together with our craftspeople,” they explain with the SS21 collection including hand-printed, hand knit, hand crochet, and hand-embroidered pieces. “We are invested in giving continuous, well-paid work and do not switch for cheaper alternatives.”
For many, price is a major drawback for smaller brands like this and we're not going to lie — dropping $150 on a T-shirt stings. STORY mfg. isn't cheap, but unlike other brands, it's clear where your money is going. Supporting local artisans as opposed to fast-fashion factories that regularly disregard human rights, unfortunately, comes with a financial tradeoff. However, there is one added benefit to a slow-fashion approach — quality. As the Al-Rubeyis emphasize, their clothes are meant to be seen as investment pieces and the quality backs this up. These are handmade pieces that you can see yourself wearing for a long time — and passing down to the next generation.
STORY mfg.'s use of natural dyes means the brand's clothes are colored using things like earth minerals, leaves, bark, roots, heartwood, fruits, flowers, bacteria, and sunlight. The result is a non-toxic dye (for both the wearer and the dyer) that reduces the environmental impact and also creates a distinctive color palette. STORY mfg. favors warm, natural tones, think burnt oranges, light browns, peach, washed-out-red, and shades of indigo with each dye batch creating an original one-of-a-kind color. “Change is natural. If you end up with an interesting streak or different color it’s all part of natural progression” the brand explains.
These sorts of natural tones will be key for trends in the future according to Jane Boddy European Creative Contributor at The Pantone Institute. "Colors that align with nature have become a major topic in the world of color over the past year. People look to nature as a place of calm and peace to help relieve the stress and turmoil of recent terrible events," she explains. Boddy adds that these tones are part of the rise of "seasonless color" which means that "they do not have a season or year attached to them. They can be worn anytime, anywhere."
As the Al-Rubeyis explain in the brand's manifesto, their goal is one of "not only 'zero impact' but 'positive impact.'" This concept is a difficult one to comprehend in fashion.
Between sourcing materials, process, production, and shipping, it's hard to imagine the clothes we wear having a net neutral impact on our planet, much less a positive one. However, we definitely won't get there if we don't try. Brands like STORY mfg. are making the effort to disrupt the normalized way of making clothes, in favor of something a bit slower, a bit more thoughtful, and a bit more environmentally conscious. While clothes aren't the solution to the climate crisis, trying to make things better can only be a good thing.
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