Blackhorse Lane Ateliers is calling for support. The London-based denim manufacturer, which produces its own house label as well as small-batch collections for U.K. labels, announced a crowdfunding initiative that will help advance the opening of a wash house within its East London factory. Funds will help bolster prototype washing, which allows efficiency testing before production, and equip the facility with machinery and employees dedicated to furthering its upcycling abilities.
For years, the brand has anticipated opening the new wash lab, which in 2020 received more than 1.2 million pounds ($1.4 million) from the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology’s (BFTT) Small to Medium Enterprises Creative R&D Program to do so. Its expected capacity will be 80-200 garments per day and 400-700 garments per week. As London’s first-ever wash lab, the facility will be crucial to developing an aesthetic that’s unique to the city. Blackhorse Lane Ateliers’ founder Han Ates is looking to students to help guide the process.
“We are hoping that, by working with students and having fresh perspectives on washing, we will develop our own U.K. signature wash style,” he said. “We have found that students are often not tied down by expectations and are more likely to take risks creatively, and we are hoping to harness that.”
Over the past six years, the company has kept an “open door policy” and hosted more than 150 visits from local universities. While the wash house likely won’t be up and running until the end of the year, Ates said it will be open to students much earlier to allow for idea exchange and to “find our own path in this exciting new journey.”
Unlike traditional fundraising, Blackhorse Lane Ateliers’ crowdfunding provides ongoing benefits for supporters. Referred to as a “community membership,” the initiative allows supporters to pledge a minimum of 25 pounds ($32) per year for the membership and receive benefits such as a 20 percent discount on all product, discounts on workshops and invites to social events. It also provides supporters with a pre-order page where they can choose to back the items that most interest them.
The public can get involved by visiting the “Become A Member” page on the Blackhorse Lane website. There is currently no fundraising target or end date.
“We wanted to reach out to the people who have been supporting us all this time and let them have a stake in our future,” Ates said. “This is also a vehicle to pass our message to our people who we want to have the benefits rather than a faceless business investor who would be only interested in the bottom line.”
A similar strategy was adopted by Australia’s Outland Denim, which in 2020 raised 1.32 million Australian dollars (approximately $867,919) despite the initiative’s inopportune launch during the Covid-19 pandemic. The campaign, which ran on Australian crowdfunding platform Birchall, garnered 1,012 global investors, becoming the platform’s fastest equity crowd raise. Funds were used to help fuel the brand’s sales and marketing efforts and position it to become a third-party production entity under the name Maeka.
For Ates, working with the community on this initiative is one of his main drivers of success and happiness.
“What I have seen with Blackhorse Lane Ateliers and the community that surrounds it is a sense of accountability,” he said. “If you don’t have a community, you don’t have accountability, and you start making shortcuts and don’t realize how your actions impact the people who surround you. The community helps to keep you in check and helps maintain itself.”