Katy Al-Rubeyi’s Story mfg. is rooting its fashion in nature and social good.
Before co-founding Story Mfg., Katy Al-Rubeyi was a denim industry observer, giving her an eagle-eye view of what the industry was missing.
Following four years as the denim editor at WGSN, she founded the sustainability-focused consultancy Denim Forum. In 2013, she and her husband Saeed Al-Rubeyi launched Story Mfg. to make fashion more compassionate.
While much of the industry is chasing zero impact, Story Mfg. instead strives to have a net positive effect. Working out
of an atelier in an Indian forest, the denim brand champions artisan craftsmanship and traditional techniques, providing reliable work to locals.
On the product side, textiles are made with biodegradable materials and are processed using naturally derived dyes. Cutting back on waste, leftovers from indigo dyeing are used as fertilizer, while cotton offcuts are transformed into the paper for hangtags and stuffing.
On a constant quest to make fashion kinder, the brand is also using its platform to combat racism and discrimination.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
Honestly, who knows? The denim industry is a strange animal that seems to always talk about change and action, but in reality moves very slowly because it follows market forces at the end of the day. I don’t think 18 months is a very long time, and most of the industry know that what is happening in 18 months is largely already planned, but my hope is that in a year and a half the industry is both back on its feet and able to invest in powerful new tools to change the world.
What is one thing that you would like to see change in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
Covid has forced a lot of industries to slow down and think, and I’ve seen a lot of genuine reflection happening. Designers, buyers and consumers are questioning their previous diet of fast, cheap, bad fashion and making commitments to change. I hope some of this sticks when life returns to the (new) normal.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
Sustainability is a word that has been bent almost to the point of breaking, but I’m still hopeful! What really gives me renewed excitement is the growing understanding that sustainability is not a lifestyle trend—it’s a fundamentally crucial movement that ties into social inequality, racism, sexism, capitalism, colonialism and modern slavery. We must stop waiting for the pandemic to be “over” to start asking questions, putting our money where our ethics are and forcing a shift in expectations. I think it needs to start with better literacy around sustainability; people are confused, tend to hop on whatever the latest buzzword is, and have an extremely Western-focused idea of the subject, and this needs to be addressed.
Describe your dream jeans.
My mum’s old hand-me-down Levi’s orange tabs from the seventies, but to make them a dream, I would want to know they were made consciously too.
Name one word that describes denim to you.