We're excited to announce a new series, Makers and Manufacturers in collaboration with photographer Carmel King. Carmel has spent the past few years documenting the changing nature of making and craft-based industry in boroughs across London. To kick things off, we take a glimpse behind the studio door of Blackhorse Lane Atelier, London's only craft denim maker and creators of some of the world's finest jeans. Bilgehan ‘Han’ Ates, owner of Blackhorse Lane Atelier tells us why preserving craft in the capital is more important than ever.
Wilma: Why is it so important for makers to have a presence in London?
Han: I can’t imagine a city without artists in it. I can’t imagine theatreland without its carpenters, costume designers, music-makers and actors. I can’t imagine London as a centre of fashion without it visionaries and makers. I can’t imagine London restaurants without its chef-makers. I believe makers are the soul of any city and that is especially true of what makes London so special.
How would you like to see the provision of space for makers and manufacturers develop in London?
I have seen London changing in the last three decades, from being full of makers and factories and workshops across Old Street, Shoreditch, Hackney, Haringey, Seven Sisters and Tottenham to the luxury flats that have replaced them. The remaining makers have been priced out and many have disappeared. I feel that we are creating more Knightsbridges and Chelseas and it will soon be unaffordable to live in these areas, let alone to make.
It is essential that every London neighbourhood has access to affordable workshops and small production units; and create training and apprenticeships to encourage new makers. It upset me when Hackney created Fashion Hub and gave the space to big, high-end brands like Nike, Pringle and Joseph rather than giving that opportunity to small, local makers and designers.
How does your environment and location influence the ideas you have and the aesthetic you develop?
Here at Blackhorse Lane, we are surrounded by all sorts of different creatives: painters, sculptors, photographers, joiners, furniture restorers, carpenters, weavers, art restorers, chefs, coffee roasters and brewers. Being around these people makes me feel privileged, inspired and stimulated. The atmosphere is buzzing. Somehow, being in this state sharpens my own creativity. When I make stuff – transforming an idea through my limbs into something tangible – a magical process happens and it makes me a very happy human being.
London’s finest craft denim Blackhorse Lane Atelier
"I've photographed Han's factory in Walthamstow several times in the past year. It's a real hub of activity with a friendly atmosphere, with many creative businesses under one roof. Many of the denim workers have more than 20 years’ experience in manufacturing; and so you witness a real sense of craftsmanship and passion for the product they make."