History book

Page 1

By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Suppliers of Corporate Uniforms and Workwear MWUK t/a Alexandra

since 1854

Published in 2016 by Alexandra, West Park House, Midland Way, Thornbury, Bristol BS35 2NT alexandra.co.uk Text and design Š Alexandra All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: 978-1-5262-0022-8 Printed in the UK by Apple Litho (Bristol) Ltd.

Contents Foreword..........................................7 1850 - 1879.....................................9 1880 - 1900...................................11 1901 - 1913...................................16 1914 - 1918...................................23 1919 - 1938...................................27 1939 - 1945...................................33 1946 - 1957...................................39 1958 - 1983...................................42 1984 - 1989...................................51 1990 - now....................................57

Alexandra since 1854


Foreword Alexandra’s story starts over 160 years ago with its roots in the development of high quality ladies fashion wear and drapery. Founded and nurtured by the entrepreneurial flair of the Davis family, their consistent ability to move with the times and meet customers’ needs saw generations of the family transform the business from a regional player to a national leader, supplying companies around the world. The vision for the Alexandra of today began with Granville Davis in the 1950’s, when he identified the opportunity to bring workwear to the massmarket through a pioneering retail experience built firmly upon the pillars of quality, service and availability. ABOVE Martin Lyne Managing Director, Alexandra. February 2016. LEFT TOP Granville Davis at his retirement party 1988. BELOW LEFT Whiteladies Road shop front. C.1910.

Demand was initially met by mail order, with multi channel capability offered through dozens of regional retail shops that sprung up in most major cities including London and Paris throughout the 1960’s. Stock-backed product availability was secured through the investment in our own manufacturing capability in the 1970’s, and Alexandra’s expertise in product innovation, quality and design made us the market-leader for professional, fashionable workwear. With this successful formula, the business continued to dominate the corporate and workwear markets, supported by offices in Holland and France. In 1985, Alexandra was listed on the UK stock exchange. By the time he retired in 1988, Granville had seen his vision develop from concept, through creation and on to market leadership. A rare and inspiring achievement. In today’s digital age the pillars of quality, service and availability continue to define the Alexandra brand and we are proud to serve our many customers, alongside holding a Royal Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen.

Martin Lyne Alexandra Managing Director

By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Suppliers of Corporate Uniforms and Workwear MWUK t/a Alexandra

Alexandra since 1854


1850 s to 1879 LEFT TOP Advert from Isaac Davis’ shop in Redcliffe Street. BELOW LEFT Fashion plate showing bonnets. 1850. BELOW Fashion plate “Paris fashions for March” 1856.

The company that became Alexandra, known and loved by generations of working people was started by Alfred Isaac Davis in Redcliffe Street, Bristol in the 1850s. Alfred’s father, Isaac Davis, had a picture-framing shop in Redcliffe Street, in which Alfred began his career. An often-repeated family story says that one of the ladies in the family asked if she could display her beautifully made hats in the window of the shop and it was this that led to the establishment of a drapery business. The hat-maker could have been Matilda, Alfred’s older sister, who according to the 1851 census, was a dressmaker. Or perhaps it was Alfred’s wife, Maria, who first displayed her hats in the shop window. Like many family stories, it has become confused over time. What is certain is that the hats sold well and Alfred left his father’s trade of picture-framing and set up his own business selling hosiery and hats. Over the next few years, Alfred’s business grew into a linen drapery, selling household linens and fabric for dressmaking. Initially, Alfred lived above his shop at 87 Redcliffe Street with his wife Maria and their young sons Henry Frederick and Ernest Alfred. The business continued to grow and Alfred leased new premises at 80 Redcliffe Street in 1869. By 1871, he employed at least two assistants.

Alexandra since 1854


1880 to 1900

In 1880, Alfred expanded the business further by moving into new premises on Whiteladies Road, occupying two adjacent shops, numbers 53 and 55. Whiteladies Road was one of the main arterial roads out of Bristol city centre and serviced middle class customers in the growing suburb of Redland. Bristol was booming at this time; whilst commerce no longer relied on the slave trade, the city remained a major centre for international trade, manufacturing and industrial finishing. There was full employment, disposable income and an increasing demand for the fashionable goods being promoted in magazines of the time such as the ‘Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’ and ‘The Lady’.

LEFT Advert for Alexandra Drapery with photograph of Princess Alexandra. Autumn 1901. ABOVE Portrait of Princess Alexandra on her wedding day. BELOW LEFT Whiteladies Road, from the bridge next to Clifton Down station. 1890s.

At the same time as moving into new premises, Alfred shrewdly renamed his new business, ‘The Alexandra Drapery Company’ after Princess Alexandra of Denmark, the fashionable wife of the future King Edward VII. Alexandra was extremely popular with the British public and set fashions such as the wearing of high necklines and choker necklaces – the iconic look for Edwardian ladies of this period. It was a sure-fire way to associate your business with an influential ‘celebrity’ of the period. During the next two decades, the business prospered and the shop gradually expanded with the acquisition of adjoining premises forming an early ‘department store’. By the turn of the century, the shop occupied a large block of five adjacent premises on West Park Corner, only broken by the Vittoria pub at number 57. A passage ran along the back of the pub to connect the two halves of the shop.

BELOW RIGHT Whiteladies Road, from opposite end of bridge over Clifton Down station. 1890s.

Alexandra since 1854


Alfred’s sons Henry Frederick and Ernest Alfred both entered the business as draper’s assistants. They both began their own families; by 1891 Henry Frederick and his wife Hilda lived over one part of the shop while the recently widowed Alfred lived over another. Several shop assistants and seamstresses also occupied premises above the shop, which was commonplace at this time. Working for a draper’s shop like Alexandra’s would have been hard work for the staff employed there. Predominantly young, unmarried women, they were expected to work long hours, were not allowed to sit down while on duty and often had to live by a strict curfew if living above the shop premises. Shops opened early and closed late in order to compete for customers, as Victorian high streets teemed with similar shops. The fact that Alexandra Drapery closed at 7pm on weekdays and 2pm on a Saturday shows that it was successfully attracting customers and thus could afford to close and allow ‘time off’ for the staff.

TOP LEFT Advert for Autumn and Winter fashions. LEFT Advert, day and evening dresses. 1895-6. ABOVE Advert, Autumn and Winter fashions, featuring trimmed fur coats. C.1890s.

In the 1880s and 1890s, Alexandra Drapery was one of six department stores in Bristol. This relatively new style of shop sold different types of goods in dedicated departments and had fixed prices; previously, customers would have expected to haggle to agree a price. As one of the largest shops on the fashionable Whiteladies Road, Alexandra Drapery catered to middle class customers and the requirements of a wellmanaged household - such as servant’s garments. As well as an expanded line of fabrics and household linens, they also stocked a range of household linen, including ready-hemmed sheets, toys, cutlery and china. Whilst we have no evidence that Alexandra stocked food items, another popular draper in Bristol at the time was also displaying local beer and cheese in the window.

Alexandra since 1854


RIGHT Advert, Spring and Summer fashions. 1899. BELOW Whiteladies Road shop front. C.1910.

At this late Victorian period, ready-made clothes were considered to be of poor quality and purchasing ready-made garments would imply that you belonged to the lower social class. Poorer people bought their clothes from street markets, usually second hand or remodelled. Alexandra’s customers had their dresses made in the styles chosen from the fashion magazines. The sewing was then undertaken by seamstresses and tailors employed by Alexandra and delivered to the customer’s home. The Alexandra Drapery sale catalogue from July 1899 lists a great variety of fabrics for clothing, including ‘fancy silks for blouses’, ‘self-coloured cashmeres’ and ‘fancy printed sateens’. The shop also stocked children’s clothes and ladies’ accessories such as capes and dressing gowns, along with more unusual items such as ‘divided skirts or cycling knickers’. These garments would have seemed quite innovative and avant-garde for the period, but it is worth noting that there was also a growing women’s suffragette movement in Bristol at this time. The vast majority of Alexandra’s middle class female customers would not have worked outside the home; they were expected to stay at home and look after the needs of their male relatives. In the 1880s, only around 35% of adult women were engaged in formal employment, as opposed to 90% of men. The women who did work were confined to a few jobs which were deemed suitable for lower class women; mainly domestic service, working in textile mills and making clothing. Women generally occupied the roles with the lowest levels of pay, status and responsibility. The vast majority of working women were aged 14 to 25. Even educated women in skilled roles such as teaching and nursing, although considered ‘respectable’, did not merit ‘respect’ for their vocation and commitment. Once married, women were expected to make domesticity their first priority in order to be considered respectable. In 1911, only 14% of married women were employed.

Alexandra since 1854


1901 to 1913 BELOW Whiteladies Road, circa 1908.

In the first years of the twentieth century, Henry Frederick and Ernest Alfred took over the running of the business from their father. Continuing the family tradition, Henry’s sons Granville and Everard, and Ernest’s son Leonard, all entered the business. Alexandra continued to prosper, evidenced by several extensions being made to the shop front and the fact that Henry and Ernest no longer lived above the shop but had homes in the well-to-do suburb of Clifton. When Alfred died in 1917, he left £1,800 in cash to each of his sons, the equivalent today of over £75,000. This was a considerable amount of money for the time and excluded investments, property and the value of stock. The shop continued to offer the latest fabrics. Advertisements from the period feature characteristic Edwardian fashions such as lace, smooth flowing lines, and large and elaborate hats. Purchases continued to be delivered to customers by branded wagons and carts. No middle class housewife would be seen in the street carrying parcels; the mistress of the house would have selected her purchases and left an order. This would be filled on credit - accorded to middle class customers as standard - and the items delivered by the shop or collected by a servant. In a photograph of the shop front from about 1910, a handcart which would have been used for deliveries can be seen standing ready.

TOP Advert for Autumn and Winter fashions. 1905. BELOW LEFT Spring and Summer fashions. 1904. BELOW RIGHT Spring fashions. 1911.

Alexandra since 1854


TOP King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visit Bristol. 1908. BELOW Baker Baker & Co. department store decorated for the event. 1908. RIGHT Dainty Dress for Spring and Summer. 1911.

On July 7th 1908 a major, two-day event took place in Bristol as King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra sailed into Avonmouth aboard the Royal Yacht, ‘The Victoria and Albert’. The streets were packed with people; the day had been declared an official holiday and the main streets, shops and buildings of the city had been richly decorated to mark the event. As the Royal carriage made its way up Whiteladies Road from the Art Gallery to Clifton Down, it would have passed the Alexandra store. The entourage processed first to the Council House (where the Lord Mayor was knighted), then to the Art Gallery for lunch, and then on to Clifton Down station, returning by train to the Royal yacht. As The Victoria and Albert steamed into The Royal Edward dock, the yacht burst through a ribbon of red, white and blue that had barred the entrance, officially ‘opening’ the dock for the city.

Alexandra since 1854


At this time, Bristol was fast becoming one of the centres of the suffragette movement in Britain. The Bristol & Clifton branch of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage had been formed in 1868 by women from wealthy backgrounds with the time, education and money to get involved in social reform. By the turn of the century, the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU) had been formed by Emmeline Pankhurst and this attracted a more diverse and militant membership. In 1907 one of her lieutenants, Annie Kenney, arrived to set up a Bristol branch and immediately found strong support.

LEFT Golfing and cycling wear for the modern woman. 1905. ABOVE Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst. 1908. BELOW LEFT Arson attack on the Bristol WSPU HQ. 1913. BELOW RIGHT Annie Kenney.

When Winston Churchill (then a Liberal) visited in November 1909 he was struck by Theresa Garnett at Temple Meads in Bristol. ‘Take that you brute’, she said as she hit him (or tried to hit him - accounts differ) with a dog-whip. “Votes for women!” In support for the call for ‘acts of civil disobedience’, many buildings were vandalised, including the new Bristol University Sports Pavilion. In revenge, the WSPU HQ suffered an arson attack in 1913. When war was declared, the activities of the WSPU were immediately suspended and supporters of the suffrage movement in Bristol turned their energies and organisational skills to supporting the war effort.

Alexandra since 1854


TOP Group of women tram conductors wearing uniform. 1914-18. BELOW Munition workers, Strachan and Henshaw, Bristol. 1914-18.

First World War

1914 to 1918 BELOW LEFT Volunteer nurses and wounded soldiers, Downend, Bristol. 1914-18. BELOW RIGHT Manufacturing shell cases at Cosmos Engineering, Fishponds, Bristol. 1914-18.

In August 1914, the manoeuvring of global empires for territory and power, led to the declaration of war. Developments in mechanisation resulted in warfare on a scale never seen before. Bristol became a centre of both production and transit, supplying the Allied Forces with boots, motorcycles, fighter planes, horses, munitions and poison gas. Fourteen hospitals and private houses in the city were converted into war hospitals to treat the train loads of wounded soldiers arriving every day at Temple Meads station. As men volunteered or were conscripted to join the Armed Forces, and under pressure to produce supplies for the war effort, employers began to recruit women into roles they had never held before. For the first time, women undertook engineering work, issued tickets on trams and delivered the post. In Bristol, women entered factories making aeroplanes, cigarettes, shells and poison gas. They even took the places of men in the works’ fire service for Wills tobacco manufacturers. Nationally, the number of women working in private factories increased by more than a quarter, and the number in government factories increased a hundred fold. Over the course of the war, over 3 million large shells were made in Bristol, with 45,000 produced per week in 1918. ‘Munitionettes’ were making shells and ‘The Gas Girls’ were filling them with poison gas - such as mustard. These women worked in very dangerous environments; of the 1,100 people who worked at the gas factory at Avonmouth in its six months of operation, 710 were affected by gas poisoning. Protection for workers was minimal. Women wore full-length cotton drill overalls which they had made from fabric bought in drapery shops like Alexandra.

Alexandra since 1854


BELOW Poster advertising the Voluntary Auxiliary Detachment. 1914. TOP RIGHT Staff volunteers from Alexandra Drapery. 1915. BELOW RIGHT Fundraising for Alexandra Rose Day. 1917.

Alexandra would also have supplied fabric for the clothes worn by its middle class customers, who volunteered to work. Nationally, over 1.5 million women went to work for the first time. Women volunteered for police patrols, joined the Land Army and became members of the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs). Over 450 Bristol women became VADs, helping to organise and care for injured soldiers. They also worked in the fourteen war hospitals set up in Bristol, often filling the places of qualified nurses who were needed at the front. A photograph shows a group of Alexandra workers who became VADs. VADs were given an allowance with which to purchase the garments they would require, along with patterns for the garments and detailed instructions about fabric and colour. VADs therefore either made their own uniforms, or had a seamstress make up the dresses, aprons and hats which they would require. As a prominent drapery business in Bristol, Alexandra Drapery would certainly have been a supplier of both the fabrics for the garments and, as they offered a seamstress service, the actual making of the garments.

BELOW Volunteers from the Women’s Land Army. 1914.

As creator of the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Core in 1902 and patron of the Red Cross (one of the two prominent organisations that formed the VAD units), Queen Alexandra actively encouraged women to support the war effort - whether as a voluntary nurse, a munitions worker - or simply as a fundraiser or ‘knitter of socks’. Regular fundraising events were held all over the country - from ‘bring and buy’ sales to fêtes, tea parties and balls. Below left is an example of an ‘Alexandra Rose Day’ in Bristol in 1917, an initiative set up by Queen Alexandra in which women sold posies of flowers to raise money for the war effort. Alexandra Drapery was managed through the war by Henry Frederick and Ernest Alfred Davis, who were by this time too old to be called for active service. Everard Davis, son of Henry Frederick, served in the Gloucestershire Hussars during the war. He became a Lieutenant and was awarded the three service medals, the Victory Medal, the Star and the British War Medal. The company’s founder, Alfred Isaac Davis, died in 1917. His funeral was reported in the Western Daily Press.

Alexandra since 1854


TOP Alexandra circa 1919. BELOW Trainee comptometer operators in Bristol. 1928.

1919 to 1938 BELOW House maid, Compton Verney. 1930. BELOW LEFT Women working on aircraft panels, Bristol. 1919. BELOW RIGHT Women at Mardon, Son and Hall Printers, Bristol, circa 1919.

The involvement of women in the workforce and volunteer roles during the First World War had little lasting effect on women’s work after the war ended. Women were expected, and often wanted, to return to the home after the war when demobilised soldiers returned and needed jobs. This sometimes led to confrontations, as in Bristol in 1920 when demobilised soldiers broke the windows of trams in protest over the continued employment of the female ticket collectors known as ‘clippies’. The Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company responded by sacking all of the women they employed. Any increased freedom at work which women had experienced as a result of the war was short-lived, and a comparison of the censuses for 1911 and 1921 show very little difference in the ratio of women in the workforce. Between the wars, domestic service continued to be the largest single sector for female employment. Women working in factories began to move from the traditional textile industries to the growing manufacturing areas of light and electrical engineering, and consumer goods. The number of women working in shops and offices rose significantly. Working class women regarded working in a shop, particularly a large one, to be of higher status than factory work or domestic service. The invention of the typewriter was a major factor in bringing women into offices, as typing came to be considered as ‘women’s work’. In 1911, only 18% of clerks were female, but by 1951 this had risen to 60%. These new roles were still segmented by gender and class, however. Working class women tended to occupy roles with lower status and pay such as clerical work; middle class women progressed to secretarial and administrative roles; and men occupied the top jobs as managers and accountants. An official marriage bar remained in place in teaching and the civil service, and discrimination against married and older women workers was very strong.

Alexandra since 1854


RIGHT Sale poster. 1925. BELOW Shop front. Circa 1925.

Bristol was the centre for trade in the South West and did not suffer as much as some areas in the difficult economic times after the First World War. The celebrated author, J B Priestly visited the city in 1933 and commented: “Bristol lives on, indeed arrives at a new prosperity, by selling us Gold Flake [tobacco] and Fry’s chocolate and soap and clothes and a hundred other things”.

ABOVE Wills Gold Flake poster. Circa 1930. BELOW Alexandra Rose Day fundraising. 1928.

Despite the competition and the effects of the post-war depression, Alexandra Drapery continued to prosper during the interwar years. Ernest Alfred Davis died in 1927 and his son Leonard and nephew Everard took over the business. Alexandra was listed as a limited company in 1928. By 1933, the business employed 56 people, including 41 unmarried women. There were four different entrances to the store and 20 departments selling everything from knitted sportswear to artificial flowers to children’s millinery. Several departments had stock valued at over £1,000, equivalent to over £36,000 today. Photographs of Bristol from this period show a thriving city with people taking care to be smartly dressed. Women’s clothes were very feminine and the invention of new artificial fibres, like nylon, gave scope for further fabric innovation. Accessories were very important to complete an outfit. Alexandra continued to service the women of Bristol, but with increased rail and road delivery options, orders were also being despatched all over the country. The Alexandra Rose Day continued to be a popular fundraiser for local hospitals after the war and the organisation continues to fundraise to this day (visit www.alexandrarosecharities.org.uk).

Alexandra since 1854


Bristol had always been a diverse and prosperous city based on commerce and merchanting. The City Docks recovered quickly after the war and were still an active working port handling many thousands of tonnes of imports and exports every day. The outskirts of Bristol city were being transformed by the vast new estates of council housing in Sea Mills, Shirehampton, Fishponds, Bedminster, Speedwell, Hillfields, Knowle and Southmead. The new properties were filling with the families of the workers in the many factories, manufacturing units and shops that were springing up. ABOVE Bristol Docks 1930’s. BELOW Whiteladies Road. Circa 1935.

By the time the Second World War was declared, The Bristol Development Board claimed that there were 2,248 factories and workshops in Bristol, representing over 300 different trades and industries. It all helped to keep the prosperity of the Bristol middle class public buoyant and the coffers of stores like Alexandra jangling.

TOP Tobacco manufacture, Wills, Bristol. 1939. MIDDLE Workers at butter factory. 1939. BELOW LEFT Cigarette manufacture, Wills, Bristol. 1939. BELOW RIGHT Vegetable processing. 1939.

Alexandra since 1854


TOP Engineering workshop with women at work on lathes. 1940. RIGHT Woman operating engineering machine, with munitions next to her. Wearing overall, headband and protective gloves. 1940.

Second World War

1939 to 1945 TOP LEFT War declared. 1939. TOP RIGHT Women in boilersuits spray painting tent poles at Yeo Bros Paull & Co. 1940.

When the Second World War was declared in 1939, the everyday lives of women changed once again. There was an increased demand for overalls and work clothes as women took on the jobs of the men called up to fight. The number of women working outside the home increased dramatically during the war, from women making up 27% of the workforce in 1939, to 39% in 1944. As in peacetime, women largely undertook unskilled and low status roles, while men were promoted to fill vacancies higher up. It is estimated that, by the middle of the war, one in three factory workers were women, and by 1943 at least 90% of single women and 80% of married women aged 18-50 were contributing to the war effort. These high numbers were a result of women being conscripted for the first time. In the first years of the war, an unsuccessful government recruitment campaign meant that few women were opting to work voluntarily. By 1941, there was an acute labour shortage and in March of that year, measures were introduced requiring all women aged 19-40 to register at their local labour exchange to be allocated to essential work. In December 1941, this policy was extended to the conscription of all women aged 20-30, a move that was deeply unpopular with men. Most were sent to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), or to work in munitions factories. Women with children under 14 and those caring for essential workers were exempted, but single women could be sent anywhere in the country to work. Women also joined the Armed Forces in large numbers, to release men for the front. Women joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRNS) or the ATS. Some worked as clerks and typists, some as cooks and cleaners.

Alexandra since 1854


The demand for protective workwear and uniforms was intense. As resources of labour and raw materials were limited, effort was directed towards producing uniforms rather than civilian clothing. Approximately a quarter of Britain’s population were entitled to wear a uniform, including several voluntary organisations. These were sold ‘off the peg’ in drapery shops or were made to an approved design. Even women who were not in a recognised uniform started to adopt military styling with neat, small hats and smart, uniform-style suits.

TOP Women’s Land Army poster. 1940. BELOW LEFT Princess Elizabeth as ATS Volunteer. 1945. BOTTOM LEFT Women’s Voluntary Service delivering hot meals. 1941. BELOW RIGHT Land Army girls. 1942.

As fewer civilian clothes were produced during the war, and with women undertaking heavier, dirtier work, clothing became more functional and hardwearing. Women working in factories wore a variety of overalls and aprons over their blouses and skirts, to protect their clothes and help the garments to last longer. Also common was the ‘glamour band’, a headscarf worn tied at the front to prevent long hair from falling into machinery. Women wore wraparound dress overalls known as ‘housecoats’ to do both domestic and light industrial work and also began to wear trousers more widely, something which gradually became adopted outside of work. Vogue commented in December 1939, “we deplore the crop of young women who take war as an excuse for… parading about in slacks. ‘Slack’, we think, is the word”. Despite this, the ‘siren suit’, a woollen all-in-one jumpsuit in a style popularised by Winston Churchill, was especially welcome during cold night air raids. In order to control the limited supply of civilian clothing, a rationing system was introduced in June 1941. Each adult was allowed 66 coupons per year (later reduced to 48), which added up to a complete outfit. Dressmaking fabric also required coupons, though some items were off the ration. These included hats and caps, sewing thread, wool and silk for mending, boot and shoe laces, ribbons and blackout cloth.

BELOW LEFT Gas mask bag. 1942. BELOW RIGHT World War 2 Ration books. 1941.

Others received training in driving and took on highly specialised roles such as flight engineers, radar plotters, mechanics and radio operators. Women were not allowed to fire anti-aircraft guns, go to sea on HMS ships, fly with the RAF or take on combat roles. Each service had a different uniform and the neat suit of the WRNS was particularly popular with young women of the time. Even Princess Elizabeth, against the wishes of her parents and the government, joined the ATS in 1945 and trained as a driver and mechanic. Women were unable to join the Home Guard as they were not allowed to bear arms, however women volunteered for many different civil defence roles, including Air Raid Precautions (ARP), First Aid posts, the Police Reserve and the Auxiliary Fire Service. As in the First World War, women trained as nurses and assistants and worked in war hospitals. They also cared for civilians injured during bombing raids. The Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) was set up to co-ordinate the work of various groups. It was largely responsible for the evacuation of children, for helping people made homeless by bombing, and for the distribution of 45 million ration books. The majority of its members were middle class, middle aged women. By 1941, one million women had joined the WVS. Perhaps the least popular service among volunteers was the Women’s Land Army, with low pay, physically demanding work and long hours. By 1943, however, more than 80,000 women had joined up. The Land Army was extremely important to food production and was only disbanded in 1950.

Alexandra since 1854


TOP LEFT Utility fashion. 1941. TOP RIGHT Women machining shell cases at Strachan & Henshaw, Bristol. 1939-1945. MIDDLE LEFT Bomb damage, Castle Street, Bristol. 1941. MIDDLE RIGHT Blitz damage, Palmyra Rd, Southville. 1940. BOTTOM LEFT Ruins of C. Weeks & Son, opposite Alexandra Drapery. 1941. BOTTOM RIGHT Bomb damaged bus, Whiteladies Road. 1940.

In the first years of the war, women’s overalls were also coupon-free, which contributed to their popularity as workwear. Phyllis Warner recorded in her journal in July 1941, “Today I bought a boiler suit, technically a ‘bib and brace’ coupon free, because it is occupational clothing. The shops are full of them in all sorts of bright colours”. It is very likely that Alexandra would have sold all of these items, as the rationing of dressmaking fabric and ready-made clothes would have restricted their more established trade. In March 1942, rationing was finally extended to include workwear. Even when an overall was owned by their employer, factory workers still had to hand over three coupons for its use. To further economise on labour and raw materials, the ‘Utility Scheme’ was also introduced in 1941. This was designed to ensure that clothes were produced to high standards and at reasonable prices. The scheme controlled the quality of fabric, the amount of fabric used in a garment, and the price charged. Utility items carried the distinctive ‘CC41’ mark, standing for ‘Civilian Clothing 1941’. Leading fashion designers created designs for Utility clothing and it proved surprisingly popular. In the later years of the war, the majority of clothes and fabric sold by Alexandra would have been classed as Utility. In a faint photograph of the interior of the Whiteladies Road shop taken just after the war, a display of ‘Printed floral utility overalls’ can be seen. The photograph, right, of workers making shells at the Strachan and Henshaw printing works in Bristol, shows a woman wearing an almost identical overall. The Alexandra shop remained open throughout the war and, in 1941, was still employing a full staff of 58 people. Everard and Leonard Davis continued to run the business, and both of their wives also worked for the company. Bristol, being a major port, attracted much attention from the German Luftwaffe and Alexandra had its share of bomb damage during the war. The Bristol Blitz of November 1940 destroyed the central shopping area of Castle Street and Wine Street. This forced shoppers onto the radial streets such as Whiteladies Road, temporarily enhancing trade for businesses like Alexandra. In January 1941, however, Whiteladies Road also became a target for the bombs. The imposing, well-known store of C. Weeks & Son, a furniture dealer immediately opposite Alexandra, was completely destroyed by a direct hit. The 23 plate-glass display windows of the Alexandra shop front were shattered and the roof and skylights were also damaged. The claim Alexandra submitted to the city valuer for the damage amounted to £673, equivalent to over £19,000 today. The long-term effects of the war took their toll. Bad debts increased significantly, as customers were less able to pay for their goods, and the amount of money the company spent on advertising fell sharply.

Alexandra since 1854


1946 to 1957 LEFT Everard Davis. BELOW LEFT Dior’s ‘New look’ Silhouette. 1947. BELOW RIGHT Alexandra spring fashion show. 1951.

Alexandra continued to be an important business on Whiteladies Road and in the wider city. In 1948, when drapers in Bristol formed a Bristol branch of the Drapers’ Chamber of Trade, Everard Davis was appointed as its first Chairman. That same year, Everard’s son, Granville joined the business. Between 1949 and 1953, the interior of the Alexandra shop was modernised, ‘with new fixtures and floor covering throughout the store’. Photographs of the refurbished interior show an impressive department store with attractive millinery and beauty departments. At the same time, Alexandra began to develop selling overalls by mail order, catering to the growing number of working women. The system of clothes rationing did not stop when the war ended. Items were gradually removed from the lists over a period of years. Clothing continued to be rationed until 1949, and the Utility scheme ran until 1952. The production of civilian clothing increased after the war, but the majority of it was needed for the export market, to aid Britain’s economic recovery. Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’, with full, layered, bias-cut skirts and pinched-in waists, had debuted in Paris in 1947. It was initially met with distaste by the British public, still struggling with restrictions on materials, but by the early 1950s the style had been adopted wholeheartedly. Advertising photographs of a new Alexandra collection, taken for the Evening World newspaper in the early 1950s, show models in fashionable full skirted patterned day dresses.

Alexandra since 1854


TOP LEFT Alexandra Easter window display. 1953. TOP RIGHT Alexandra Easter advertisement. 1953. MIDDLE Beauty department. 1953. BOTTOM LEFT Hat department. 1953. BOTTOM RIGHT Hosiery and gloves. 1953. BELOW RIGHT Alexandra staff Christmas party. 1950.

Whiteladies Road continued to benefit from the destruction of the traditional central shopping area of Castle Street. By 1952 there were 7,159 shops in Bristol, one for every 62 people in the city. The shopping experience would have been fairly similar to that during the Victorian period. People shopped locally and often, were served by assistants who retrieved items from behind a counter, and purchases were delivered. As the 1950s progressed, economic recovery set in and rationing ended. After several years of lacklustre clothing options, the general public embraced the refreshing changes to women’s fashions that started to appear. Photographs of Alexandra’s millinery display for Easter 1953, and a newspaper advert for new coats for Easter, show that Alexandra fully embraced the new fashions. An informal photograph of a staff Christmas party from around this time shows the fashionable gowns in action; perhaps some of these were purchased in the shop. Bristol City Council was meanwhile investing in the regeneration of the commercial heart of the city. Against strong public opinion, their new development plans were centred on new developments in the Broadmead area, rather than the former centre. The first phase of the development was completed in 1954, and the second phase extended the shops as far as Penn Street in 1956. Gradually, the shopping centre of Bristol shifted away from the Whiteladies Road area and profits at the Alexandra shop began to decline.

Alexandra since 1854


1958 to 1983 BELOW Broadmead. 1950.

In 1958, Everard Davis handed the reins of the business over to his son, Granville, and from that time Alexandra’s fortunes and direction began to change rapidly. Realising the difficulty of attempting to compete with the new shopping centre in Broadmead, already awash with brand new stores such as Lewis’s (now John Lewis) and Jones & Co (now Debenhams), Granville astutely decided to focus on women’s workwear, a business that had been quietly developing as a mail order business since the war. In 1951, 40% of women employed were semi-skilled manual workers. These women would have worn overalls to work and it was this growing market which Granville Davis identified. In 1959 he formed an associate company, Alexandra Overalls Ltd. The same year, the company took a lease on a shop at 9 St James Barton, in the new Broadmead shopping centre, setting up a mail order overalls department on the upper floors with a ground floor showroom to maintain direct contact with passing trade customers. The business quickly prospered and, in 1963, the Alexandra department store on Whiteladies Road which had been a much-loved landmark for more than 80 years was closed. In February 1964, Alexandra opened a new fabric shop at 17 and 19 Penn Street in Broadmead, staffed entirely by assistants from the Whiteladies Road shop and selling dress making fabrics, patterns and accessories at a time when women were experimenting with the changing fashions of the time. Speaking to the local press at the official opening, Everard Davis commented, “Our customers are able to inspect our entire range on their own without obligation to purchase - but on request our very experienced staff will be there to advise, as in the past”.

TOP Alexandra overalls advertisement. 1960. BELOW LEFT Alexandra overalls advertisement. 1960. BELOW RIGHT Alexandra overalls advertisement. 1960.

Alexandra since 1854


TOP Workers at Ice-cream factory. 1970’s. BELOW LEFT Alexandra shop. 1971. BELOW RIGHT Interior of shop. 1971. BOTTOM Autumn Catalogue front cover. 1968.

BELOW LEFT Workers at Walls factory. 1970. BELOW RIGHT Striking Ford workers. 1968.

In 1964 offices were taken in Washington House to oversee the mail order side of the business. In 1966, the offices were moved again to the newly built Alexandra House in Kings Square, Bristol. Alexandra was the first tenant of this new building, which included parking, office space, a store and distribution space. Two floors were leased to other companies. Turnover grew from £120,000 in 1960 to £1 million in 1968, the first year in which that figure was reached. The amount spent on advertising and mail-order activity increased significantly over this period, with the growing sales showing a return on this investment. Gross profit also increased, from 26.3% of turnover in 1960 to 36.8% in 1968. A variety of colour catalogues were being produced showing the full range of garments available. At last women workers were starting to get equal pay to men. In June 1968 women machinists at the Ford Motor Company plant in Dagenham took strike action for equal pay, winning a pay increase representing 92% of men’s wages. By 1969, Alexandra employed about 170 people in addition to the Directors. Over 150 of them were women.

Alexandra since 1854


BELOW Designer Hardy Amies, who designed for Alexandra throughout the 1970s. BELOW RIGHT Alexandra Overalls cover. Circa 1968. BOTTOM Bruce Oldfield who also produced designs for Alexandra during the 2000s.

Granville Davis considered it important that workwear should be recognised as part of the fashion business, and that it should reflect current trends. This influence can clearly be seen in the catalogues of the 1960s, with brightly coloured mini-dress overalls and models with beehive hairdos, and in the 1970s with flowered smocks and flared trousers. The company also began a long-standing partnership with the designer Hardy Amies, who designed ranges for Alexandra throughout the 1970s. This was extremely prestigious; Amies was the official designer to Queen Elizabeth II from her accession to the throne in 1952 to his retirement in 1989.

BELOW Alexandra shops.

Alexandra was also leading the way in the use of modern fabrics. The majority of the overalls made in the 1960s and 70s were in ‘Bri-nylon’, a hard-wearing synthetic fabric which was cheap to produce, easy to care for and available in a range of bright, non-fade colours. Alexandra’s workwear shop in Broadmead had the same modern layout as the fabric shop: customers were encouraged to browse the stock from carousels and rails, such as the more modern fashion boutiques that were springing up, and fashionable-looking mannequins displayed the latest styles in the shop windows. Between 1968 and 1986, Granville opened 18 Alexandra workwear shops in other major UK cities, starting with Birmingham.

Alexandra since 1854


ABOVE Coatbridge factory. 1979. BELOW RIGHT The Alexandra Dutch office. 1980.

In 1969, Alexandra moved into large-scale production with its first 50,000 sq. ft. factory at Coatbridge in Lanarkshire, a project backed by the Scottish Development Agency. A second factory of similar size was developed at Bothwell Park, not far from the first factory. Whilst having control of manufacture increased profit margin, it also meant that Alexandra needed to sell an even higher volume of garments to cover the factory overheads. Alexandra was also handling the subcontracted production of denim garments for both Levi and Wrangler and other garment companies at this time. In 1979, warehouse activities were moved from central Bristol to a purposebuilt warehouse and distribution unit at Patchway, north of the city. Alexandra was mailing over four million printed catalogues annually to customers. At the start of the 70s, 100 different designs were being promoted (primarily women’s overalls) and the company provided an estimated 10% of the UK’s requirement for overalls. By 1984, this had grown to about 10,000 different lines and had increased market share to 15%. As well as direct sales through mail order and retail shops, Alexandra operated a specialist, nationwide sales team to deal directly with larger companies and government organisations such as the NHS, education and security. Alexandra also started a rental company in 1974, leasing rather than selling garments to companies who required a high turnover of laundered garments for medical or manufacturing roles.

The fabric shop in Broadmead was closed in 1977, as increasing imports meant that home sewing was no longer an economical option for customers. In 1980, Alexandra launched a sales office and warehouse in Raamsdonksveer, near Rotterdam. Catalogues in French and German were produced to cater to the European market. A retail shop was opened on London’s Regent Street the same

year. In 1981, the UK warehouse at Patchway was expanded, and the sales and administration functions were moved to new purpose-built office accommodation adjacent. New ordering, sales, manufacturing and distribution systems were put in place to meet the growing needs of the business. During the next few years, the retail sales network was expanded further by opening shops in high streets throughout the UK.

Alexandra since 1854


RIGHT Alexandra House, Patchway, Bristol. 1986. MIDDLE Automated warehousing. 1986. BOTTOM LEFT In-house embroidery machines. 1986. BOTTOM RIGHT Automated packaging. 1986.

1984 to 1989 BELOW TOP Alexandra’s factory at Coatbridge, Strathclyde. 1970-80. BELOW BOTTOM Alexandra distribution centre at Patchway, Bristol. 1981.

In 1984, the company name was changed from Alexandra Overalls Holdings Ltd to Alexandra Workwear Ltd; in 1985 Alexandra became a PLC and shares were listed on the stock exchange with an initial capitalisation of £11m. Alexandra was Europe’s largest manufacturer and retailer of workwear. In 1986, a larger factory was opened at Bothwell Park, the freehold for the property and additional land having been acquired in 1984. By January 1987, Alexandra was producing an average of 80,000 garments per week and stocked over 12,000 product lines with half a million garments held at the Patchway warehouse. The company employed 1400 people, 1000 of whom worked in the two manufacturing units in Scotland. The turnover for the year to January 1987 was £33m. A sales and distribution office was opened in Edinburgh in 1987, further boosting the company’s regional presence, and there was a new move into the European market with the establishment of a sales office and shop in Paris in 1989. From 14 shops in the mid 1980s, the number had risen to 30 by the early 1990s. To support the growth in orders, the previous single distribution facility was replaced with a network of six warehousing and distribution centres - three based in Bristol and three in Swindon. Each focused on a particular garment type. In tandem with this, the company initiated an automated warehousing and logistics system, also with the aim of promoting increased efficiency.

Alexandra since 1854


LEFT Alexandra catalogues and brochures. 1980-84. BELOW Alexandra newsletter. 1988.

As well as continuing to supply protective workwear to medical, manufacturing, catering and engineering sectors, Alexandra also began designing and supplying corporate workwear to the retail, finance, travel and service industries. In a highly competitive market, companies recognised the value in ensuring their staff created the right impression and helped to build their brand awareness. The growth of small and medium-sized businesses started to change the order dynamic for Alexandra. Whilst the number of orders continued to grow, the proportion of large, contracted or long-production orders became less predictable. Accurate production forecasting became more difficult. The company found that they now needed to maintain higher stock levels in multiple sizes, colours and designs in order to meet unplanned or unknown demand. In 1988 Granville Davis retired from the business, ending over 100 years of ownership by the Davis family. During a recent reunion of Alexandra staff from this period, a member of the sales team remembers racing to make the weekly sales targets - as much as 100,000 garment sales in one week. The count would be done on Friday afternoon, while the sales team members were still on the phones, trying to bring in more sales. When the target was reached, Granville Davis would open a bottle of champagne, and push a coin into a slit cut in the top of the cork. When Granville retired, he was presented with a gold cork to remind him of this tradition.

Alexandra since 1854


LEFT Alexandra catalogues and brochures. 1986-89.

From 1988 the company was managed by John Prior who had joined the company in 1970 as an accountant.

BELOW John Prior.

During the mid 1980s, the British economy had boomed. Despite starting and ending the decade with recession, house prices and wages soared during the Thatcher period. More disposable income and public spending led to a massive growth in small business enterprises, particularly leisure, food and shopping. The key driver behind Alexandra’s growth during the 60s and 70s had been the continued rise in the number of women in work. Further legislation to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, coupled with positive images of successful women, encouraged women to seek management roles or to run their own business. The proportion of women of working age who were in paid employment increased from 55.1% in 1975 to 60.5% in 1985 and 66.6% in 1995.

BOTTOM An Alexandra mobile fitting van.

Women were principally employed in the service industries (where they made up 86% of all workers), or as nurses, midwives and surgical assistants (89%), or in clerical and secretarial roles (75%).

Alexandra since 1854


1990 to now LEFT Alexandra catalogues and brochures. 1990-97. BELOW Digging the foundations for Alexandra office in Thornbury. 1994.

During the 1990s, man-made fabrics such as nylon were starting to lose favour with the British public. In an effort to revitalise the product range, Alexandra launched a new range of high-end polyester/cotton garments and introduced further additions to the suiting and professional workwear ranges. By 1992, Alexandra had over 200,000 active customers throughout Europe and supplied an average of over 125,000 items of workwear every week. The company owned 32 retail shops. In 1993, turnover was £57m. In 1995, Alexandra moved into brand new headquarters, ‘West Park House’ in Thornbury, near Bristol. Finding that the domestic manufacture of workwear was struggling to compete with the flood of inexpensively produced goods now available from global manufacturers, Alexandra started outsourcing some production to Germany. In 1996 a new manufacturing plant was developed in Morocco and the two Scottish manufacturing units were merged.

Alexandra since 1854


In 1997, John Prior retired as Managing Director and Julian Budd succeeded him under the Chairmanship of David Dunn. Julian had joined Alexandra in 1988 as Group Finance Director and was appointed to the Board in 1989. In 1998, Alexandra launched its first website, consisting of just eight active pages and a simple form to request a catalogue. It wasn’t until 2003 that customers were able to order some garments online, but without an online payment facility.

LEFT Alexandra catalogues and brochures. 1997-2003. ABOVE Julian Budd. BELOW LEFT Prima Corporate Wear catalogue. 2008. BELOW MIDDLE Royal Warrant. 2002. BELOW RIGHT Corporate Apparel catalogue. 2002.

During the last two years of the 90’s, the company concentrated on mail order and contract sales and began to reduce the number of retail stores. An intense period of acquisition, designed to maintain Alexandra as the market leader in workwear began in 1998 when Alexandra purchased corporate wear company Atelius. This was followed by the acquisition of Angelica International, Corporate Apparel, Prima Corporate Wear, de Baer and Image Development Ltd. As the new Millennium dawned, Alexandra was the dominant name in the provision of workwear - particularly in healthcare, manufacturing and corporate markets and had become a leading supplier of uniforms to airlines, hotels, banks and a large number of blue chip clients. In 2002, Alexandra was granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, an accolade that the company has proudly retained to the present day.

By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Suppliers of Corporate Uniforms and Workwear MWUK t/a Alexandra

Alexandra since 1854


ABOVE Alexandra catalogues and brochures. 2005-2008. LEFT Anti-microbial scrubs. 2012.

Christopher Marsh joined Alexandra in March 2003 to take over the chairmanship from David Dunn. Over the next few years Alexandra introduced a number of innovative new products, such as anti-microbial nursing garments and machine-washable suiting, and the website was relaunched featuring over 900 popular styles. In 2007, Alexandra participated in the popular TV programme, ‘Undress the Nation’ featuring the style gurus, Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, helping to create a new uniform for the catering staff at The Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend. And later that year, Alexandra supplied garments for the third series of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, featuring TV Chef Marco Pierre White. ABOVE Christopher Marsh. 2004. BELOW LEFT Barry McGuigan, winner of the third ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, wearing an Alexandra chef’s jacket. BELOW RIGHT Staff at the Prince of Wales Hospital wearing Alexandra featured in the TV series ‘Undress the Nation’.

In June 2008, a new website was launched offering a wider range of functionality and several hundred pages to browse. Traffic had increased significantly between 2004 - 2008 as more garments had been added to the website. The new platform allowed for online payment by credit card making it easier for smaller, direct customers to purchase online and helped boost Alexandra’s appeal even further. However, despite a turnover of £81m, a perfect storm was brewing for Alexandra which would cause the most difficult period of its long history.

Alexandra since 1854


TOP Annual Report and Accounts covers. 2007-08.

During 2008-9, the UK was suffering from the effects of a prolonged recession. Like many other companies, Alexandra experienced reduced demand in a marketplace that had seen a proliferation of competitors since the millennium and was also finding it harder to secure supplier credit an essential dynamic in a seasonal market like workwear. This situation was further compounded by a steady annual increase in world cotton prices that had started to erode valuable margin. Over 15 consecutive years, world cotton prices had continued to rise during a period when the British market was favouring cotton-rich fabrics, particularly for the healthcare and hospitality sectors. ABOVE Tim Gifford. 2009. BELOW Men’s wearhouse website. 2015. BELOW RIGHT Men’s wearhouse shop. 2015.

Although Alexandra had successfully switched manufacturing offshore to Morocco, which had substantially reduced production costs, attempts to sell the UK manufacturing site at Bothwell failed, resulting in a 30% fall in the share price of the company. In June 2009, Tim Gifford was appointed CEO and in September, a stock write-down prompted a lack of confidence in Alexandra’s ability to ride the recession amongst creditors. By the summer of 2010, Alexandra’s cashflow dried up and PricewaterhouseCoopers were appointed as administrators on July 12th. All but one of Alexandra’s retail shops were closed, but unstinting loyalty and continued support from both staff and customers meant that the company continued trading. Fortunately, the right owner was found to lead the company forward. Just one month later, Men’s Wearhouse, one of North America’s largest retailers of menswear, acquired the assets of Alexandra, the corporate wear company Dimensions and the specialist police wear provider Yaffy, to form a corporate apparel division. The injection of fresh ideas and cashflow allowed the company to re-group and plan for the future.

Alexandra since 1854



Order by telephone Mon to Fri 9.00am - 5.30pm:


0845 155 2288 0845 155 2211

See page 133 for details

Order by email:

orders@alexandra.co.uk Order by post:

Alexandra Thornbury Bristol BS35 2NT

Holland and Belgium Alexandra Corporate Fashion BV

Ireland Work Uniforms Direct Limited T/A Alexandra

HP298 Womens tunic

Unit 63 Dunlop Commercial Park 4 Balloo Drive Bangor BT19 7QY t 0845 463 1018 f 028 9127 4763 e sales@workuniformsdirect.com

See page 82 for details

LT200 Womens twin pleat trousers See page 80 for details

' MWUK Ltd trading as Alexandra. Not to be copied without permission. Printed in the UK Registered office: Registered office: 3 Long Acres Willow Farm Business Park Castle Donington Derbyshire DE74 2UG. Registered in England no 00454264




Alexandra Vêtements Professionnels SARL

Alexandra West Park House Midland Way Thornbury Bristol BS35 2NT t 0333 600 1111 f 0333 700 2222 e orders@alexandra.co.uk alexandra.co.uk

5 Rue de Douai 75009 Paris Appointment to t +01 48 Her 16ByMajesty 27 83The Queen of Corporate f +01 48 Suppliers 16 27 82 Uniforms and Workwear e paris@alexandra.eu MWUK t/a Alexandra


Alexandra Corporate Fashion BV

Work Uniforms Direct Limited T/A Alexandra

Sterrekroos 7 4941VZ Raamsdonksveer Nederland t +31 (0)162 517000 f +31 (0)162 517824 e holland@alexandra.eu

Unit 63 Dunlop Commercial Park 4 Balloo Drive Bangor BT19 7QY t +44 (0)845 463 1018 f +44 (0)28 91 274763 e orders@workuniformsdirect.com

Unit 63 Dunlop Commercial Park 4 Balloo Drive Bangor BT19 7QY t +44 (0)845 463 1018 f +44 (0)28 91 274763 e sales@workuniformsdirect.com

France Alexandra Vêtements Professionnels SARL 5 Rue de Douai 75009 Paris t +01 48 16 27 83 f +01 48 16 27 82 e paris@alexandra.eu

Alexandra Thornbury Bristol BS35 2NT t +44 (0)145 487 6311 f +44 (0)845 155 2211 e export@alexandra.co.uk

All other overseas enquiries should be directed to our International Markets Division at Alexandra

© MWUK Ltd trading as Alexandra. Not to be copied without permission. Printed in the UK. Registered office: 3 Long Acres, Willow Farm Business Park, Castle Donington, Derbyshire DE74 2UG. Registered in England no 00454264

Alexandra Thornbury Bristol BS35 2NT t +44 (0) 1454 876311 f +44 (0) 8451 552211 e export@alexandra.co.uk


PC06/Direct/Reg ALX/0414/P


All other overseas enquiries should be directed to our International Markets Division at Alexandra Alexandra West Park House Midland Way Thornbury Bristol BS35 2NT t +44 (0)333 600 1111 f +44 (0)333 700 2222 e export@alexandra.co.uk © MWUK Ltd trading as Alexandra. Not to be copied without permission. Printed in the UK. Registered office: 3 Long Acre, Willow Farm Business Park, Castle Donington, Derbyshire DE74 2UG. Registered in England no 00454264

call 0845 155 2288

By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Suppliers of Corporate Uniforms and Workwear MWUK t/a Alexandra


Holland and Belgium

Work Uniforms Direct Limited T/A Alexandra

All other overseas enquiries should be directed to our International Markets Division at Alexandra

92 Rue Jouffroy d’Abbans 75017 Paris t 01 48 16 27 83 f 01 48 16 27 82 e paris@alexandra.eu

See page 135 for details


your working wardrobe

Alexandra Vêtements Professionnels SAS

NU971 Qwirki’s clogs

Sterrekroos 7 4941VZ Raamsdonksveer Nederland t +31 (0)162 517000 f +31 (0)162 517824 e holland@alexandra.eu



Holland and Belgium Alexandra Corporate Fashion BV

0845 155 2288

Sterrekroos 7 - 4941VZ Raamsdonksveer - Nederland Postbus 223 - 4940AE Raamsdonksveer t +31 (0) 162 517000 f +31 (0) 162 517824 e holland@alexandra.eu

By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Suppliers of Corporate Uniforms and Workwear MWUK t/a Alexandra

Alexandra Thornbury Bristol BS35 2NT t 0845 155 2288 f 0845 155 2211 e orders@alexandra.co.uk www.alexandra.co.uk

Order by fax:

NU320 Coloured fob watch

0333 600 1111

K Ltd trading as Alexandra. e copied without permission. n the UK. ed office: 3 Long Acre, arm Business Park, Castle Donington, ire DE74 2UG. ed in England no 00454264

Contact us

Order online 24 hours a day:


Order online at www.alexandra.co.uk or call 0845 155 2288

dra West Park House d Way Thornbury BS35 2NT 0)333 600 1111 0)333 700 2222 rt@alexandra.co.uk

Contact us By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Suppliers of Corporate Uniforms and Workwear Alexandra Bristol

0333 600 1111 www.alexandra.co.uk

ther overseas enquiries ld be directed to nternational Markets ion at Alexandra

001_Cover-BC priced_Covers 15/04/2013 11:39 Page 1

Contracted supplier of uniforms and workwear to the NHS, reference F.A.G.51

Spring / Summer 2015

ABOVE Alexandra catalogues and brochures. 2011-16. RIGHT Exhibition stand. 2015.

Autumn / Winter 2015

Spring / Summer 2014

With the strong support and backing of Men’s Wearhouse, Alexandra has re-engineered the structure of the company to focus more closely on the core sectors of healthcare, hospitality, public and corporate business, as well as providing a direct service to consumers via the website. Under the stewardship of Tony Bennett and then, the current Managing Director Martin Lyne, Alexandra has taken new strides in re-establishing its position in the workwear market.

ABOVE Martin Lyne. 2015. BELOW Thornbury office. 2015. BOTTOM LEFT Wearhousing, Long Eaton. BOTTOM RIGHT Advanced digital embroidery.

In 2011, Alexandra moved into newly refurbished offices in Thornbury. Many functions, such as warehousing, despatch, finance and IT are now shared with sister company, Dimensions, based in Castle Donnington near Derby and manufacturing is sourced from many different countries. Alexandra supplies over 45,000 businesses with an extensive range of workwear, offering a consistently high availability on the most popular lines and stocking over 20,000 products. Each year we personalise over 700,000 garments using advanced digitalised embroidery and print methods. Early in 2016, Men’s Wearhouse implemented a new holding company structure. The new holding company, Tailored Brands, Inc. was created to support, nurture and augment their family of brands, one of which is Alexandra. As we enter a new exciting phase in our history, Alexandra continues to innovate, continues to grow and continues to invest in our products, our service and our people. Our past serves to guide our future, a fact underlined by Winston Churchill, when he said, “The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward”.

Alexandra since 1854


Index Description Page

Description Page

Description Page


Ernest Alfred Davis Everard Davis

Royal Warrant, Alexandra awarded

Air Raid Precautions (ARP) 35 Alexandra becomes PLC 51 Alexandra Corporate Fashion BV, opening 49 Alexandra Fabric Shop 42, 49 Alexandra House, Bristol 45 Alexandra House, Patchway 48 Alexandra Overalls Ltd 42 Alexandra Rose Day 24-25, 29 Alexandra Shop, Paris opening 51 Alexandra Shop, Regents Street, London 49 Alexandra Workwear, name change 51 Alexandra Workwear, growth 42, 47, 49 of retail shops Alfred Isaac Davis 9, 25 Angelica International 59 Annie Kenney 21 Atelius 59 Auxiliary Territorial Service 33

B Bothwell Park factory, Lanarkshire Bristol Suffragette movement Bristol Tramways and Carriage Company Broadmead development

48, 51 21 27 41-42

C C Weeks & Son, Bristol Christian Dior, ‘New Look’ Christopher Marsh Civilian clothing, CC41 Coatbridge Factory, Lanarkshire Corporate Apparel

36 39 61 36 48 59

D David Dunn 59, 61 de Baer 59 Dimensions 63 Drapers Chamber of Trade, Bristol 39

E Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, visit to Bristol 18 Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine 11 Equal Pay Act 45, 55

12, 25 16, 25, 36, 42

F Ford Motor Company - Dagenham machinists strike


6-7, 16, 39, 42, 53

H Hardy Amies Henry Frederick Davis

46 12, 16, 25

I Image Development Ltd Isaac Davis

59 9

J JB Priestly John Prior Julian Budd

29 55, 59 57, 59

King Edward VII


L 16, 36

M Mardon, Son & Hall, Bristol Martin Lyne Men’s Wearhouse

27 7, 65 63

P Prima Corporate Wear Princess Alexandra of Denmark Princess Elizabeth

59 11 35

Q Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Core


55 22, 36

Tailored Brands Inc. 65 The Alexandra Drapery Company 11, 13-14, 36 The Bristol Blitz 36 The Lady 11 The Red Cross 25 The Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) 35 Tim Gifford 63 Tony Bennett 65

U Undress the Nation TV show Utility Scheme, WW2

61 36, 39

V 34 24-25

W Walls Factory 45 Washington House, Bristol 45 West Park Corner, Bristol 11 West Park House, Thornbury 57 Whiteladies Road, Bristol 6, 11-13, 16-18, 36, 39, 42 Will’s Tobacco, Bristol 23, 31 Winston Churchill 21, 34, 65 Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) 33 Women’s Land Army, WW1 24-25 Women’s Land Army, WW2 34-35 Women’s Royal Navy Service (WRNS) 33, 35 Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU) 21 WW1, Declaration of 23 WW2, Declaration of 32-33


R Redcliffe Street, Bristol

Sex Discrimination Act Strachan & Henshaw, Bristol

Vogue Magazine Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD’s)


Leonard Davis



G Granville Davis



Yaffy 63

Bibliography 1930s accounts book, Alexandra archive. ‘An Introduction to Alexandra’, leaflet produced by Alexandra, c.2010. Bernard, Juliet (2014) ‘Knitting for Soldiers in the First World War’, Huffington Post website (http://www.huffingtonpost. co.uk/juliet-bernard/knitting-for-soldiers-in-the-first-worldwar_b_5591340.html) Burlton, Clive (2014) Research notes produced to support Moved by Conflict. Company reports, Alexandra archive. Eveleigh, David J., (1998) Bristol 1920-1969, Sutton Publishing Ltd.

N.B Where dates and addresses are listed for the business or its employees, these all refer to entries found in census returns and trade directories.

Picture Credits and acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the following institutions and collections for providing images for use in this publication, especially The Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives for their kind assistance during the compilation of this book. Every effort has been made to contact the original copyright holders, but should there be any errors or omissions, we gratefully accept corrections and will insert appropriate acknowledgement in subsequent printing of this book.

Evening Post, 11/02/1964.

All images not acknowledged here are the copyright of Alexandra or are in the public domain.

Hardy Amies company website (http://hardyamies.com/ heritage/heritage-the-man/)

Pages 11, 16, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 37, 44: © Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives

Interviews conducted with former members of Alexandra staff by Helen McConnell Simpson, 26/06/2015.

Pages 21, 34: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘Introduction to Alexandra Workwear plc’, leaflet produced by Alexandra, October 1987. McIvor, Arthur J. (2001) A History of Work in Britain, 18801950, Palgrave. Memo to staff from Director of Alexandra, December 1990. Moved by Conflict, exhibition produced by Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives, held at M Shed 11/10/2014 01/03/2015. Reid, Helen (1987) Bristol & Co., The Story of Bristol’s Long Running Businesses, 1710 to the Present Day’, Redcliffe Press Ltd. Reid, Helen (2005) Life in Victorian Bristol, Redcliffe Press Ltd. Summers, Julie (2015) Fashion on the Ration: Style in the Second World War, Profile Books in association with Imperial War Museum.

Pages 24, 33, 37: © Imperial War Museum Archives, Permission Curtis Brown Ltd Page 35: Science Museum, Wellcome Images, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Pages 37, 40, 42: © Bristol Library Services Page 39: © Victoria and Albert Museum Page 42: © Francis Frith Ltd Page 44: © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London Page 45: © Pat Mantle, TUC Library Collections, London Page 46: © Hardy Amies Ltd Page 65: Quote by Winston Churchill. Supplied by the Churchill Society, London

Turner, Mary (2003) The Women’s Century, A Celebration of Changing Roles, 1900-2000, National Archives. Fashion on the Ration, 1940s Street Style, exhibition produced by imperial War Museum, held at Imperial War Museum 05/03/2015 - 31/08/2015. Walsh, Margaret (2001) ‘Womanpower: The Transformation of the Labour Force in the UK and the USA Since 1945’, in Recent Findings of Research in Economic & Social History, Summer 2001 (http://www.ehs.org.uk/dotAsset/4e68f7d24ddb-4d34-889d-30c831beb6b1.pdf) Western Daily Press, 28/04/1917. Western Daily Press, 10/02/1964.

Alexandra since 1854


Recognition At Alexandra, there is enormous pride in the fact that many customers and staff have remained with the company for over 20 years. Indeed, many customers of Alexandra can cite generations of family members wearing Alexandra garments. Here’s just a few of our longest-serving staff members to date.

Alexander Symon Compliance Manager 35 years service

Helen Bennet Fully Factored Merchandiser 32 years service

Paula Fussell Operations Assistant 31 years service

Julie Davidson Head of Customer Services 29 years service

Nicky Harris Operations Assistant 28 years service

Julie Gray Operations Assistant 26 years service

Sharon Buscombe Customer Service Administrator 26 years service

Alan Holloway Senior Tender Response Manager 26 years service

Tina Graves Finance Director 26 years service





Alexandra VĂŞtements Professionnels SARL

Alexandra West Park House Midland Way Thornbury Bristol BS35 2NT t 0333 600 1111 f 0333 700 2222 e orders@alexandra.co.uk alexandra.co.uk

42 Rue de Maubeuge 75009 Paris t +01 48 16 27 83 f +01 48 16 27 82 e paris@alexandra.eu

Holland and Belgium


Alexandra Corporate Fashion BV

Work Uniforms Direct Limited T/A Alexandra

Sterrekroos 7 4941VZ Raamsdonksveer Nederland t +31 (0)162 517000 f +31 (0)162 517824 e holland@alexandra.eu

Helen McConnell Simpson Helen is the curator of Social History for Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives, and Blaise Castle House Museum.

Unit 63 Dunlop Commercial Park 4 Balloo Drive Bangor BT19 7QY t +44 (0)845 463 1018 f +44 (0)28 91 274763 e orders@workuniformsdirect.com

All other overseas enquiries should be directed to our International Markets Division at Alexandra Alexandra West Park House Midland Way Thornbury Bristol BS35 2NT t +44 (0)333 600 1111 f +44 (0)333 700 2222 e export@alexandra.co.uk

Š MWUK Ltd trading as Alexandra. Not to be copied without permission. Printed in the UK. Registered office: 3 Long Acre, Willow Farm Business Park, Castle Donington, Derbyshire DE74 2UG. Registered in England no 00454264.

Jenny Dunford Jenny is a freelance genealogical researcher with over 30 years experience and lectures for the universities of Southampton and Portsmouth.

Tina James Tina is the Marketing Manager at Alexandra.

Alexandra since 1854