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Behind the Seams with… Story Mfg

meets | Jun 18, 2024

We sit down with Saeed Al-Rubeyi the co-founder of independent planet first fashion brand Story Mfg

Text by Augustine Hammond

Over a decade ago, when Saeed and Katy Al-Rubeyi founded their unisex fashion brand, Story Mfg in Brighton, “sustainability” was merely an industry buzzword. According to them, it wasn't until 2016, when major retailers like LN-CC started to embrace conscious fashion, that the landscape began to shift. However, this change hasn't been without its challenges, as soon mass polluting megabrands were also waving green flags to remain relevant. Plus the ongoing economic strains of recent years have led many brands to abandon their efforts towards the cause. “Sustainability has gone from being a luxury to a mid-market demand, yet some brands are dropping it due to cost increases,” Saeed tells Because. 

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Central to Story Mfg's ethos is their "Positive Product Manifesto," a guiding principle that aims to turn sustainability into positive action. They draw an analogy to nature, where a plant enriches the soil even after it dies. “Nature is always this positive place to frame our work," he says, “so it only makes sense that our clothes are largely made from it.” The brand's philosophy extends to its production methods, prioritising handmade, naturally dyed, and plant-based materials.

“It’s in our power to choose to make a good decision at every stage,” says Saeed, likening their process to a conscientious diet where every meal is a choice against cruelty. Owning their business outright allows the brand to maintain integrity. "We've had hundreds of opportunities come our way but we’ve wanted to remain in control,” he explains, referring to potential partnerships that might compromise their values.

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Despite external challenges, Story Mfg's creative impetus remains steadfast. "We get our energy from within. The UK creative scene is very self-assured," he notes, highlighting the unique artistic integrity of British designers. This confidence is evident in Story Mfg's latest collection, which features hand weaving, natural dyeing, and intricate embroidery, as a testament to “slow fashion.”

Quilted jackets and slouchy tailoring are paired with ruffle hem skirts and oversized knitted jumpers bearing four-leaf clovers. “So much fashion at our level can feel very serious,” says Saeed, “we want things to feel happy and cheery, but serious in the way they are made.” They draw inspiration from vintage Americana and British workwear, infusing each piece with charming, “wonky” details that celebrate the imperfections of the handmade. 

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At the end of last year, Story Mfg expanded beyond clothing and into fragrance, launching two scents, with more to come this year. “The brand is a design ethos and a set of principles,” says Saleem, so the progression felt natural to the founders. Working with niche perfumers, they created scents that eschew synthetic ingredients in favour of natural, biodegradable materials. “Fragrance can be toxic and synthetic [...] we wanted to inject our craft ethos into each bottle,” he explains, ensuring that even their perfumes align with their scrupulous sustainable values.

Story Mfg's unwavering dedication to doing better has cultivated a loyal following. "We have evangelical customers!" Saeed proudly declares. As they continue to grow and evolve, Story Mfg remains a shining example of what fashion can achieve when it prioritises ethics, craft, and a positive vision for the future, as well as maintaining a productive relationship with its customers. Leading the way in sustainable fashion, one thoughtfully crafted piece at a time.

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