Story mfg: Something More
Streetwear brand Story mfg. is bridging India and the UK through intentional textile making and storytelling
Husband and wife team Saeed Al-Rubeyi and Katy Al-Rubeyi are hyper-intentional about creating a shared world between India and the UK through their streetwear brand Story mfg. With an affinity towards craftsmanship, natural dye, and malleability, Story mfg. harnesses local knowledge and practices from all over India to breed innovation.
SS22 “Sandwich Friends” is an extension of past collections, yet an entry into something more. An ode to the earth is seen through exquisite color, intricate patterns, and oversizing. The collection incorporates new ways of working with hand knits, block printing, and hand crocheting — The “Keeping Vest” is a loose vest handknitted with an omnipotent hand embroidered tree that demands our gaze, the “Piece Scarf” is a multicolored hand crocheted scarf, and the “Shore Shirt” is a butter cream top with slivers of colorful hand embroidery aesthetically akin to undiscovered emojis on a phone screen.
They dye their pieces with ancient dye plants, heartwood, roots, berries, and soil with the support of their partners Tharangini Studio, Oshadi, The Colours of Nature, and Sufiyan Khatri Block Prints. Pieces may succumb to change with textiles aging, denim fading, and colors bleeding — Al-Rubeyis’ response to this is to lean into the change. Like wine and cheese making, we accept that the more interesting stuff is weird and tastes a bit weird, says Saeed. Creating clothes and caring for clothes requires a similar pattern of intrigue and openness to that of wine and cheese making.
“Fashion is really complicated because you have to make a sample, make a collection, sell the collection, and then six months later make thousands of the same thing,” says Saeed. “We have to tell our customers they may be different, but then also manage the differences as they come along.”
This fluidity is very nonstandard and an opportunity for Story mfg. to build intimacy with consumers and artisanals. They use regional practices and knowledge from different communities. Some block printing is executed in Jaipur, while natural dying in plains is done in Tamil Nadu. Katy and Saeed find themselves tenderly explaining how to care for their clothes: Hand wash the items with pH neutral soap and cool or warm water. Finally, air dry.
Community is found in collaborations, according to Saeed. “Our vision for India is to sell our products for a local price rather than an international price,” says Saeed. “We’re partnering with No Borders Shop, a sustainable marketplace, to have a collection in India, to sell to Indians, and then we plan to give the remaining portion to charity.”
No Border Shop’s editorial began the shoot at the local flower market of Bangalore in Malleshwaram, placed amongst vendors stringing jasmines, marigolds and roses and migrated to Indian Coffee House to depict the revival of the old town landmark. Indian Coffee House carries the charm of the utilitarian, British Raj era ambience. With minimal interiors and old school waiters, you feel like you’re transported 50 years back in time. In the theme of old Bangalore, they found local homes of families that have lived in those houses for generations. You’ll find these colorful stacked up buildings if you follow the aromas of fresh chapatis being made mid afternoon and the sounds of little kids playing on the streets.
Story mfg. pledges to continue it’s positive product assembly through vegan practices, minimal waste production, and inclusive hiring practices and collaborations. They accept being ever evolving: “When we were starting the brand, we were talking about how the way a product is made is probably the most interesting thing and important part to me and Katy,” says Saeed. “We were looking for something else to call it along with [story]. At that time, we were looking at old wear and manufacturing units, vintage samples of military garments — they often had company name and ‘mfg’ afterwards, which is a contracted word for manufacturing, so we went with that.” When asked about future goals, Saeed earnestly said he wanted the label to work slowly and be open to flow, reconstruction, and uncertainty. The brand’s commitment to honesty and growth is a story that is perpetually manufacturing; we are all invited to something more.