STORY MFG. and Sustainability in Fashion


It’s obviously not a hot take to say that sustainability is among the most pressing issues for the fashion industry as it relates to the world at large. And I do think jawnz enthusiasts, and shopping-as-a-hobby enjoyers especially, have a responsibility to at least acknowledge the impact of This Thing Of Ours.

But it’s a hard topic to write about. So much of the sustainability conversation in fashion just feels like empty justifications for feeling better about continuing to treat high volume shopping as a hobby, a “this brand is sustainable, therefore it’s good/okay for me to keep buying a bunch of stuff from them” (I don’t think modern resell/thrifting/vintage culture is much different, but that’s another story). It seems harder and harder to take the brand's word when they use the word “sustainable”. How do we measure that?

Story Mfg, though, is one fashion brand that I feel confident saying fully embodies a sense of consciousness and stewardship when it comes to their approach to sustainability. They’re not just talking about ‘organic cotton’ or ‘upcycled materials’; they’re factoring in things like animal welfare and soil health/regeneration, they’re sustaining and celebrating historical dye/craft processes and the craftspeople behind them, and perhaps most importantly they’re making great clothes that people want to wear rather than throw away.

flat lay of multiple colors of lady white tess

Story Mfg is run by husband and wife team Saeed and Katy Al-Rubeyi, and was born from “a desire for a more authentic, fulfilling and kind approach to fashion”. I actually hate to describe them as a “sustainable brand” because the S-word that plagues fashion media barely scratches the surface of what they do. The Positive Product Manifesto on their website shows they consider their process, product, and impact with more breadth and depth than maybe any other fashion brand out there right now. It outlines a thoughtful approach to animal welfare, regenerative agriculture, and going from a ‘zero impact’ approach to waste to a ‘positive impact’ approach. But the section in there I find most interesting and illuminating is their note about the importance of using fashion as a vehicle/platform for promoting traditional arts and crafts practices, and helping foster new such practices, in the parts of the world where these practices and the people behind them have become marginalized by the expansion of the automated economy.

This, to me, is the crux of why Story Mfg is so great: they make interesting clothes that showcase traditional craft and production techniques through the lens of their distinct and immediately identifiable silhouette. 

lady white co x canoe club tee in sax blue on body

Anthropology as a study can have an icky Othering connotation, IMO, and that is definitely not Story’s vibe; they’re partners rather than observers. But Designers As Anthropologists is one of the ways I think about their work. Their website is a veritable encyclopedia of craft, dye, and material knowledge, and that love and knowledge is, of course, reflected in the garments. From crochet and embroidery done by hand to traditional plant-based dying techniques, it’s clear that Story isn’t just using craft/process as a branding device, it’s really the core of their vision and informs every step of their brand/business/operations. The brand is a vehicle to highlight and celebrate these historic crafts and dye processes and keep them alive by taking care of the people behind them.

All that stuff  is incredibly cool, but I think focusing solely on the craft stuff when talking about Story really sells them short as designers. One of the biggest challenges for fashion designers is creating a silhouette that is unique, immediately identifiable, and also cool as shit, and by jove they’ve done it! They aren’t just a green/sustainable brand and they aren’t just a brand that highlights historic crafts/dying/production processes; they have a really distinct silhouette that is cool and interesting on its own terms, and also perfectly complements their creative vision. Their house look of ‘voluminous pants plus wide-and-kinda-cropped tops’ is big and inviting in a way that feels like a logical extension of their Peace And Love approach. 

lady white co hoodie on body
lady white co hoodie and band pants on body

I’m a Big Pant Enjoyer (both in terms of the width of the pants and the magnitude of my enjoyment of pants in general), so Story’s pants are the standout for me. I think it’s safe to call the Peace pants and Forager pants their flagship models. Both are some big ole trousers, both have a post-wook mil-surp raver pant vibe, and both avoid feeling like TikTok trend chasing with their traditionally dyed colors and attention to detail. Of the two, the Peace pants more closely resemble standard military cargos, but the exaggerated proportions and name give them a distinct hippie dippie bent. The Forager pants take a step further into leftfield with extensive asymmetric pocketing for storing foraged goods, and some cheeky darting at the hem for a more unique shape.

While Story’s tops might feel less attention grabbing, just by virtue of being shirts/sweaters/jackets rather than being Really Big Pants, they share a similar Wide And Kinda Cropped shape that complements their voluminous trousers. The SOT jacket, a kind of chore jacket with exaggerated proportions, and the same plant dying and hand embroidery you see across the product line, very much feels like the upper body equivalent of the Peace pants. And the Greetings shirt, which they describe as “sort of like a big retro bowling shirt”, is another example of Story reimagining an archetypal vintage garment through their lens of big silhouettes and traditional craft. 

They may not solve fashion’s sustainability issues on their own, but what Katy and Saeed are doing with Story is effective, consecutive, and sincere. You can feel the thoughtfulness that goes into the design and production of each piece, the ‘weight’ of the clothes to use an Evan Kinori term, a sense that these pants or this shirt are just one expression of a broader worldview and creative vision. They’re clothes that you want to wear and live in, truly the Positive Products of Katy and Saeed’s positive approach.