Blackhorse Lane Ateliers – an interview with Han Ates
Blackhorse Lane Ateliers is a true pioneer of transparent manufacturing in London. With a business model very close to our hearts, they embody many of the same core values as MONC. At their production site in Walthamstow, North London they manufacture ready-to-wear selvedge & organic denim clothing, with jeans at the core.
- SUSTAINABILITY, COMMUNITY, QUALITY -
As I approach the uniquely silhouetted building (represented as their logo), I can already hear the murmurs of fast working sewing machines whirring away and the sounds of scissors cutting rolls of fabric. Annie who works closely with Han the founder warmly welcomes me in. Annie explains:
‘All the denim production takes place in this building, with each speciality worker responsible for a certain step in the production line’.
You might ask why are they so special?
Well, BHL design and make unisex selvedge denim products in-house, using their own signature cuts inspired by the London postcodes which surround them.
The building is a factory, office, studio, and shop all in one. As well as having their jeans available online, Blackhorse Lane offers customers the opportunity to visit the factory and buy directly. You can experience for yourself how your jeans are cut, sewn and pieced together and meet the people behind each step. They offer one of the most special customer service experiences we have encountered, and it’s an inspiration to see here in London.
I continue to wander, exploring a little further into the factory passing each station of the denim production line, and the people behind the craftsmanship on each pair of jeans. Towards the back of the building, Annie points into a professional kitchen we can spy from the production area through a window - this is part of the brand's community concept. Several times a year, part of the factory turns into a ‘denim and dine’ supper club. On a long wooden Japanese table, the building hosts locals diners with food cooked by Michelin-trained chef Pedro Passinhas.
After being guided through the manufacturing process within BHL, I sit down with the man himself – Han Ates, Blackhorse Lane’s founder. A second-generation Londoner with Turkish Kurdish roots and a rich family pedigree in manufacturing clothing and textiles. He explains his passion for denim and tells me more about why he started this very special endeavour to revive denim production in London.
"My family have worked and owned production sites or have been in the textile trade for generations - I’ve seen denim production chains move towards cheaper and cheaper pricing models, from Europe moving to Turkey, and then to China. We had no choice in that era and the development was sickening."
Having worked for years in the garment industry all around the world, Han finally decided to sell up, after becoming disillusioned with the growing exploitation of workers and damage to the environment caused by the pollution created during the denim manufacturing process. He sold everything to his then business partner and went on to explore new corners of the globe, reconnecting with his wife and daughters. On his return to London, he founded a restaurant spent time rediscovering his local community.
After some years away from fashion, he explains how much he missed working in production sites and running a factory, especially the sense of community that a factory can bring when done in the right way.
"Denim seemed like the most honest and real fabric to me and to work with.." explains Han. He wanted to give back to the community and founded a business where the workers are not only paid fairly for their work but have the opportunity for shared ownership.
Today Blackhorse Lane Ateliers partner with various like-minded brands - Studio Nicholson, Drake’s, King & Tuckfield, and Nigel Cabourn to name a few. Their denim is in seriously high demand.
The foundations on which Han is building his transparent business model align so closely with the values that we hold here at MONC. They truly uphold their core ethos of sustainability, community, and quality - all while producing incredibly designed selvedge denim you are going to love for years to come.
CREDITS: Words by Marie Louise Fischer, Photography by Freddie Elborne.