The Blackhorse Lane haberdashery
Blackhorse Lane Ateliers (BLA) opened their first store a couple of months ago, and I’ve been meaning to write about it since.
Partly because it means customers can see the full range of BLA jeans, and try them on in person (always particularly helpful with denim, even if it’s raw).
But also because the concept is bigger than just a shop, which is interesting.
They've called it a ‘denim haberdashery’, and Han Ates, who runs BLA, wants to make it a destination for people that make jeans as much as buy them.
So while the back of the shop has the shelves you’d expect - stacked with BLA jeans - the front is dominated by buttons, rivets and denim itself.
Indeed, there is everything you would need to make a pair of jeans yourself - and this is the point.
The haberdashery seems like an odd thing to prioritise over selling jeans until you see it as an extension of BLA’s denim masterclasses. These teach people how to make their own jeans over the course of a weekend, and have been running up at the Walthamstow factory for a while.
Those students, and anyone else, can now visit the shop in Shoreditch to buy their shears, their thread, or their pattern books.
Frankly, I think Han is often too generous with this stuff.
Not only helping everyone and anyone learn about jeans - trying to foster a 'denim revolution' in London - but the BLA policies around repair and pricing.
Jeans should be for life, in Han’s view, so lifetime repairs are free. The pricing is very good for the quality of the product and time that goes into it. (See my comparison here to other jeans.)
But as the detailed work still makes them expensive (up to £290), there are entry level versions. The NW3 jean, for example, comes in a Turkish denim that puts it at £175. Sign up to the newsletter and you save 17% - so £145.
That makes them (for a luxury product) very affordable. Hopefully enough people will buy them to justify Han's approach.
When I went in there last month (when these pictures were taken), one customer was having a pair of jeans shortened with the lockstitch machine. Another was having a small repair done.
And hanging out in the front of the store was Mohsin Sajid, teacher of the denim masterclasses and all-round jeans guru. Customers were asking him questions too.
It was a nice atmosphere. Into which I wandered about, asked my own questions and took pictures of my legs.
These are my NW1 jean in 18oz denim. The cut is described as ‘straight and relaxed’, which means that it isn’t tight through the thigh (relaxed) and doesn’t taper much from the knee (straight).
Most of the rest of the BLA styles are best thought of in terms of these two variables, plus the rise. The NW3, for example, is slimmer through the leg, but still doesn't taper; the E8 is slim and does taper.
Personally I find the relaxed or slim point is more a question of body shape, while the tapering is one of style.
The NW1 also suits me because it is high in the back but has a mid-rise at the front.
I like a high rise because it’s a better balance with jackets, and I like the way it lengthens the leg (both principles taken from tailoring).
But a high rise in the front is uncomfortable on the stomach, particularly in a heavy denim. So mid-rise is great there.
These have been worn perhaps 30 times and washed once.
I managed to wear them 5 or 6 times without washing them, but eventually the 18oz denim was just too heavy and hard. They’re now fine after a single wash, and I plan to wear them as long as possible before washing again.
The denim is probably only wearable 5-6 months of the year in the UK, but I have enough jeans to have one pair that isn’t year-round.
(Although of course, nothing is really ever year-round. I always find it odd when people complain that jeans are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter: what other trouser is perfect in all those conditions?)
Most of BLA's distinctive construction details are on the inside of the jeans. (Again, post with details here.)
But you can still see some of them here. There is the lining on the bottom of the rear pockets for example (betrayed by that stitchline above).
There’s the way the (one-piece) waistband is sewn onto the leather patch on the back as part of a continuous stitch (below).
And lastly the belt loops that are sewn underneath the waistband (below) rather than just on top of the denim.
BLA jeans are not perfect - there are one or two small things I dislike and I know they are changing, such as the labelling inside the waistband, which is a little uncomfortable against the skin (when not wearing a shirt).
But they’re very well-made, good value, and most interestingly very progressive.
The BLA shop is in Shoreditch, in the storied ‘Clerk’s House’ building at the end of the High Street. The full address is 118½ Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JN.
Information on the denim masterclasses here.
Photography: James Holborow