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Blackhorse Lane Ateliers: UKs first Research and Development denim wash lab

a person holding a piece of denim fabric with a pattern on it infant of a big machine and people
  • Written byYana Kasa
  • Published date 29 June 2023
a person holding a piece of denim fabric with a pattern on it infant of a big machine and people
Image Credit: Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, 2023, photography by Illya Sobtchak

The UK’s first Research and Development Denim Wash Lab was recently launched by Blackhorse Lane Ateliers (BLA) - a key SME partner for the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) at University of the Arts London (UAL).

Based in East London, Blackhorse Lane Ateliers are an innovative community-based manufacturer producing high-end, crafted denim garments, and organic raw denim. Their core values are centred around inclusivity, eco-consciousness, and creativity.

The Lab has state-of-the-art machinery and technology for ongoing R&D, small-scale production, and the development of specialist knowledge through skills-based training and education. The machinerywas sourced with support from BFTT and was fundamental to the success and outputs of the project.

The pioneering machines, which have laser and environmentally sustainable washing capabilities, were purchased from Tonello, a leader in the industry of laundry equipment. Key players in the denim industry were invited to the launch to explore the new Lab. Guests got a glimpse of the latest denim pieces designed by Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, including designs created with the Tonello machinery.

The BFTT creative R&D project has supported Blackhorse Lane Ateliers’ ambition to research and develop sustainable laundering and finishing techniques, creating a new and unique ‘London’ denim-washing aesthetic, inspired by the principles of the circular economy.

The lab is groundbreaking in many ways, and the first of its kind in the UK. Not only does it have the ability to help Blackhorse Lane create a more sustainable product, but it can also provide a service for other manufacturers to sample processes and help them reduce their impact. It could act as a blueprint for sustainable manufacturing that could be recreated in cities across the UK.

— Rachel Pierce, Director Denim and consulting and UAL BFTT R&D Project Lead