The Brand That Moved 5,000 Miles In The Name Of Craftsmanship
From the British seaside to an experimental community on the tip of India – how Story Mfg. went to great lengths to make better clothes
Although Story Mfg. was founded in the UK in 2013, in the video above, eagle-eyed viewers might note that by Mr Saeed Al-Rubeyi and his wife Ms Katy Al-Rubeyi, are definitely not in Britain. In fact, they are 5,000 miles away in Auroville, India.
The reason for this is simple: very early on in the sustainable brand’s trajectory, Story Mfg. moved the majority of its fabric manufacturing, dyeing process and garment production to India.
Auroville is an “experimental community” in the country’s southeastern corner, and this is where Story Mfg.’s production partner, The Colours of Nature, is based. The town, Mr Al-Rubeyi explains, is made up of 50 per cent Indians and 50 per cent internationals. “It’s based around an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle in an area that used to be barren, but has been replanted over the years,” he says. “It’s like proxy for what we are doing, I suppose.”
The Indian connection came to Story Mfg. by chance. “We were in Paris and randomly met someone who told us about the natural dye industry in India,” Mr Al-Rubeyi says. “He gave us a long list of places to go to see, an A-Z of the best dye houses and craft projects in India. The Colours of Nature was the first name on the list.”
Since that initial meeting in 2014, the relationship between Story Mfg. and The Colours of Nature has grown symbiotically. They’ve expanded simultaneously and together built a small atelier in the Indian forest that caters for most of Story Mfg.’s needs.
The Story Mfg. founders describe what they do as slow fashion; nothing is rushed, nothing is done for the sake of it. When your factory is some 5,000 miles away, you have to be safe and confident in what you are making and who you are working with.
As the film shows, The Colours of Nature is a small and close-knit crew that specialises in intricate embroidery and using natural dyes. The work gives each Story Mfg. garment a feeling of individuality – a sense of how much work has gone into producing it. More than 100 people may work on a piece before you get to put it on. In a world defined by speed, Story Mfg. sets its own pace. “Natural dyeing is extremely time consuming and complicated, it’s a true craft,” Mr Al-Rubeyi says. “Our job now is to work out how to mechanise it and automate it, without losing its goodness.”
The brand is “vegan and cruelty-free” and sustainable. “We don’t use leather or any animal products because we don’t feel there is anything sustainable or positive in raising and slaughtering other creatures just for their skin,” says Mr Al-Rubeyi.
“Some may say ‘sustainability’ is just a matter of opinion,” he adds, “but I would say it’s logic, research and common sense.” Who could argue with that?