The Husband-and-Wife Duo Making Clothing Inspired by Bedouin Travellers

LOESS, Collection 1Photography by Max Barnett

LOESS sees Katy and Saeed Al-Rubeyi draw on the latter’s heritage with an ethically sound collection echoing the movement and minimalism of Bedouin culture

  1. Who is it? Sustainable clothing brand, LOESS by Katy and Saeed Al-Rubeyi, the husband-and-wife duo behind denim label Story mfg
  2. Why do I want it? Organic, ethically produced clothing which draws on the traditions of Bedouin culture
  3. Where can I find it? Coming soon to Lantiki in Japan, Opener in South Korea and the pair’s own online store, Palmhearts.club

Who is it? Katy and Saeed Al-Rubeyi – or Bobbin Threadbare, as the latter’s pseudonym goes – began their pursuit of ethical, “slow made” fashion with Story mfg, a denim brand which started life selling naturally dyed, sustainably produced jeans to members of a denim-obsessed Reddit thread. Three years on and stocked around the world, the now-married pair sought a new challenge – to incorporate Saeed’s Arab heritage into the collection. “The look and feel of Story mfg is very Western,” Katy says. “For a long time we’ve wanted to challenge ourselves to work with Arab heritage clothing but using the same tools – natural dyes, organic fabrics, hand finishes.” 

As they began to work on samples, though, the look and feel of these new reference points felt incongruous with what they were already producing at Story mfg – “it quickly became apparent that these pieces formed a separate narrative,” Katy explains. And so LOESS was born in its nascent form, a sister brand to Story mfg alike in its ethical intentions, differing in where it found its roots. “They are two fingers on the same hand,” Katy describes.

Much of LOESS’ inspiration comes from Bedouin culture, the nomadic Arabic peoples that originally populated the vast deserts of north Africa and the Middle East, and with whom Saeed shares his heritage. “History in Iraq is seen as an empowerment and social glue,” Katy says. “Saeed’s family still keep their family tree sacred and elders can often tell you the history of a stranger based on a family name.”

As such, their first collection, entitled Sun Up, makes direct reference to Bedouin culture, and their lifestyle of movement and minimalism – though Katy and Saeed are well aware of the necessity to filter these through a contemporary lens. “We don’t think we’re going to see customers wearing full Bedouin men’s floor-length dresses just yet,” Katy says. “So we looked towards items that were almost recognisable, even if the proportions were not.”

Why do I want it? The designers have long extolled the importance of sustainable design processes – like Story mfg, this first collection uses Indian fabric grown and woven locally, and cut and dyed in their atelier – and in Bedouin culture they found a natural forebear. Like their own sustainable practice, traditional Arab clothing was built to last, mended by hand rather than replaced. Embroideries, hems and fastenings in the LOESS collection bear these hallmarks, as if they have been passed through time. “This idea really speaks to us, especially in the face of today’s throwaway culture,” says Katy. 

Working primarily in hemp, a fabric breathable in heat and far less damaging to the environment than cotton, the pieces number roomy trousers, oversized bags and shirting, often held in place with simple tie fastenings (on such utilitarian touches, Katy says she sees “fashion as an exercise in problem solving”). “The look is very oversized with powerful shapes, hand-stitched details and this organic, rustic quality. Between the two of us we refer to our design aesthetic as ‘easy-wear’ – we aren’t into making things that are tight, tailored or fussy.”

For now, the collection has only been shown to a select few stores who the duo believe understand the story – and will be stocked in Lantiki in Japan, Opener in South Korea and their own webshop “experiment” Palmhearts.club later this year. For now, Katy and Saeed are looking forward to seeing the dynamic between LOESS and Story mfg progress, taking them closer to their ultimate aim: “to be the most progressively eco-friendly company on the planet”.

Where can I find it? Coming soon to Lantiki in Japan, Opener in South Korea and the pair’s own online store, Palmhearts.club.

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