East London has welcomed the UK’s first sustainable denim wash facility, a new addition to the UK’s fashion and manufacturing services to keep production at home.
Launching 20th April in Walthamstow, Blackhorse Lane’s Denim Wash Lab and Innovation Hub is a facility that will operate both commercially and as a learning resource for students. Brands, creatives and students can access the washing and finishing lab as well as research and develop new and more sustainable ways of working with denim washes.
At the heart of the facility are two state-of-the-art machines - the G1 70 All-in-One washing machine and The Laser - made by Italian denim machinery specialists, Tonello, who, through pioneering technology, are continually improving the performance of their equipment to further reduce impact on the environment. The two machines, along with the company’s Metro software, which provides real time data to control all laundry consumption, optimise process times, and improve performance together from their proprietary Laundry (R)Evolution set up.
A water reduction from 100L to 4L per wash
Where standard denim washing uses 70 to 100 liters per wash along with tonnes of chemicals and stones, the Tonello system, which uses oxygen as part of the process, can ‘wash’ 12 pairs of jeans in 4 liters of water.
The benefits of facilitating R&D around sustainable laundering and finishing in London to the industry are manifold - alongside the desire to build on the socially oriented business model at the heart of BLA through an open access programme, factory owner Bilgehan “Han” Ates greatest ambition is the potential for UK designers to develop a unique ‘London’ aesthetic.
With the flexibility of the small minimums the R&D centre will enable, Ates believes that designers will be able to push the boundaries of creativity where previously high minimums have forced them to play it safe.
Ates commented: “We are very excited to be starting from a blank page - it means we have all that space to play and create, and whatever you play with and create with London knowhow, will inevitably become a London or even UK aesthetic. Our assumption and beliefs are, when a London or British designer comes to a London wash technician, through their shared cultural experiences, they will understand each other better, and encourage each other further, to create a more uniquely identifiable London or British aesthetic.”
About Blackhorse Lane Ateliers
Blackhorse Lane Ateliers (BLA) is London’s only craft-jeans maker. The brand makes ready-to-wear selvedge and organic raw denim jeans in its own factory in Walthamstow, East London with the ethos of encouraging its customers to “buy less, repair more”. Founded in 2015, the facility also produces garments for clients including TOAST, Studio Nicholson, Mr Porter and Matches Fashion.
Funding for the facility was secured in conjunction with Chelsea College Centre for Circularity (UAL), through the government-backed Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology’s (BFTT) Small to Medium Enterprises Creative R&D Program.
Additional funding came from The Productive Valley Fund (PVF), a 2.7 million pound flexible loan fund to support industry-led growth and celebrate local production and enterprise in the Upper Lee Valley.