Blackhorse Lane Ateliers is a newer denim label, manufactured in London and started by Han Ates in 2016, after 25 years in the textiles industry.
My first contact with Blackhorse Lane was when I was introduced to them via Drake’s, through a collaboration they had done together a few months ago, which is one of a number of collaborations they’ve been a part of, along with a handful of other notable brands.
I’ve quickly come to admire not just the Blackhorse Lane products, but, just as importantly to me, the core philosophies behind the brand, which have a clear focus on community, ethical production and craftsmanship.
To create a sense of community, other than the one achieved through producing locally, Han has given space at the Atelier to a number of others who share a similar vision of sustainability and quality products, though not necessarily related to denim; namely Pedro Passinhas’ pop up restaurant Denim and Dine, as well a Weaver, Workwear Designer and Art Restorers. There’s a generosity in that which is rare to see and I really admire it. They also run workshops, run by Mohsin Sajid of Endrime, where you can make your own pair of jeans.
My benchmark for wanting to buy from a company is to ask myself that if every other business in the world was run like this company, would the world be a better place? And there aren’t many companies that you could say “yes” to that question with as much confidence as you can with Blackhorse Lane. Brunello Cucinelli being the other obvious brand which comes immediately to mind.
To reduce their environmental footprint, they buy from respected denim weavers, as well as offering an organic denim (which I bought, more on that, below). Going a step further than anyone I know of, they’ve planted Japanese Indigo on an allotment not far from the factory, which will see them able to dye their own denim. I’d love to see the allotment when I’m back in London, hopefully sometime later this year, and I’ll definitely buy a pair of the jeans dyed with local indigo, if I can get my hands on a pair.
I bought two pairs of Blackhorse Lane jeans, one for myself and another for my Brother, for Christmas. I’m still in the early wearing-in phase of my pair and I’d expect it’ll be a good 6 months before I can offer any real commentary of value on how they’re wearing in. It might be longer, given it’s currently 41 degrees and I have a moral objection to anything other than linen or shorts in this heat. Quality, raw denim has more in common with new leather than it does with anything else, in that it takes time for it to wear in, soften and develop a patina which is unique to it’s owner. I own, I think, about 6 pairs of raw denim (various cuts and shades)and I expect to wait about 6 months of semi-frequent wear and 1 wash before I feel like they’re close to being broken in, when the stiffness subsides and the fades start to show. The pay-off is worth it, though, as the denim moulds to your shape and develops fades where your body creases and stresses the cotton. You end up with a unique look and great fades which can’t be replicated by any man-made processes, no matter how much other brands try to pre-fade their denim.
I bought their E5 cut, in 14.5oz organic denim ($129.17GBP – amazing value for money) for a few reasons. It’s a lighter blue than my other jeans and will fade accordingly, which should make for a more vibrant colour, once a couple of washes and the fades kick in. It’s organic and I support anyone who produces anything without the use of chemicals. And, finally, the cut suits me. My issues with jeans, or just pants in general, is that if they fit me in the waist, they’re usually to tight on my thighs. If they fit my thighs, they’re too big in the waist. The E5 cut is designed for cyclists or just about anyone with a stronger seat/legs.
The fit through the thighs is great, just enough room to be snug and comfortable and they taper nicely from the knee down. They’re a good 4/5 inches long at the hem, but that’s to be expected as they’ll shrink significantly (vertically) after the first wash, I’ll then hem them to size after that wash. Most of my other raw denim shrinks by a good 2 inches after the first wash, so I expect these should be similar (edit: Blackhorse Lane advise to expect around 1inch of shrinkage in length after the first wash). In the mean time I just turn the cuffs up on the inside and you can’t notice the length. They won’t move as much horizontally, so I’d expect that they’ll widen by about an inch in the waist after a few months of wear, then shrink by a similar amount once they’re washed and they shouldn’t move much after that.
The only observation I could make in regards to the fit being off, was that the waist was really big on me and I can’t work out why. See image above for the original fit. I have a 31inch-ish waist, so I ordered the size 30 jeans, figuring they’d stretch out by 1 size after a few wears, but I ended up needing to take the waist in by 6cm (i.e. a lot). I’m not really bothered, as I generally expect to hem any trousers I buy and usually have to adjust the waist to get the fit 100% right and I just factor that in to the purchase cost (which still makes these great value). I’m not sure if it’s a case of the pattern needing refining, an anomaly or me just screwing up the size conversion, but either way it was easily fixed in about 10 minutes by my local tailor. Weird, though.
The only issue with quality was a split in the seam, (see image above, which was there out of the box, before I tried them on) on the left outer leg seam, which must have snuck trough quality control. I emailed David at Blackhorse Lane about this and he was clearly pretty shocked to have seen the issue and straight away offered to pay to have it fixed (I declined, as it’s a cheap fix and the gesture was nice enough). We also could have sent them back for repair, but the cost of shipping and delays make it impractical). For anyone closer to London, it’s worth noting that Blackhorse Lane offer free lifetime repairs on their jeans.
Again, I’m not really that bothered about stuff like this, as long as a brand stands by its products and offers to make good, that’s perfectly reasonable and for all we know the thread could have broken after it left the factory.
So, for the future, the plan is to expand their range to include some new patterns (my 2cents: I’d love to see a lower rise option become available and an A1 style denim jacket) and products, including coats, shirts and different denims being introduced to the product line.
With their focus on fostering a sense of community (sorely lacking in big cities), craftsmanship and ethical production, they’re a great business and worth throwing your support (and money) behind.