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Offering a double denim solution

A London-based craft jeans maker has turned to print to create jean labels with a unique and sustainable twist.

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Recycled denim is used for Blackhorse Lane Ateliers’ swing tags

Bilgehan “Han” Ates is the founder of Blackhorse Lane Ateliers and in line with the company’s core principles of quality, community, and eco-consciousness, was in search for a recycled paper to use for its swing tags at its Kings Cross shop.

After collaborating with Frogmore Paper Mill and Baddeley Brothers, the company found an even better solution – recycled denim paper.

Frogmore Paper Mill first began producing ‘denim paper’ with Oxfam as a way to find a home for its surplus donated jeans.

I love the soft feel that using denim rags creates, and it’s very satisfying to see it being used by this community of makers to support its bold sustainable ethos

Not a traditional source for paper, denim can be tough and hard wearing, so Frogmore Paper Mill cuts it into small pieces and places it in a Hollander Beater to loosen and soften the fibres. Once the material has reached a consistency of 1% fibre and 99% water, it is then transformed into paper.

Sue Woolnough, education manager of Frogmore Paper Mill, explains: “Using rags to make paper is a very traditional process and one we are proud to continue at the Frogmore Paper Mill. The birthplace of paper’s industrial revolution, we still make a variety of papers here, including this denim stock, on our No 4 Fourdrinier paper machine, which dates back to 1902.

“I love the soft feel that using denim rags creates, and it’s very satisfying to see it being used by this community of makers to support its bold sustainable ethos.”

The denim paper is produced on Frogmore Paper Mill’s 1902 paper machine

According to Greenpeace’s publication, Unearthed, if the demand for clothing continues to grow at the current rate, the total carbon footprint of clothing would grow to 3,978 mega tonnes by 2050. The opportunity to recycle unwanted denim provided the ideal solution in this environment of fast fashion.

Annie Gurney, production manager at Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, comments: “We love the idea of not letting anything go to waste. The chance to use denim rag to make a paper pulp and potentially use our own off-cuts in the future is a very exciting prospect.

“It’s been an experiment for us, exploring the suppleness of the material and working with the idiosyncratic nature of the fabric. You can see the fibres within the paper, it undulates very slightly with varying levels of thickness and has a variable bluish tint, which makes printing on the stock a very careful process.”

No dyes are added to the denim paper during the production process, meaning the faint bluish colour is created completely by the dye in the jeans.

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