The Alexandra story - our heritage in workwear

Alexandra was established in Bristol as a linen drapery during the 1850’s by Alfred Isaac Davis, selling fabrics and household linens. In 1880 Alfred moved to new premises on Whiteladies Road, a popular and affluent area of Bristol, and opened the Alexandra Drapery Company, named after the fashionable Princess Alexandra, wife of the future King Edward VII. The shop rapidly became a popular and well established business, servicing the needs of the middle-class population of Bristol.

During the First World War, many women volunteered to serve in military and hospital nursing, as well as manufacturing, civic and administrative roles and wore protective garments and uniforms made from fabrics purchased and made at their local drapery shop. Nationally, over 1.5 million women went to work for the first time, so demand for protective wear was intense during this period.

Whilst Alexandra continued to thrive and expand as a leading Bristol department store in the inter-war years, it was the Second World War that saw a real change in the lives of working women. More than 7.5m women worked in support of the war effort between 1939 and 1948 and demand for womens workwear and uniforms soared. Alexandra began selling designated ‘Utility’ overalls from their shop in Bristol and also started a mail order service, sending garments all over the UK.

After the war Alfred’s grandson, Granville Davis astutely decided to focus more effort on developing sales of women’s workwear, a business that had been quietly but successfully developing as a mail order business since the war, and in 1959, launched Alexandra Overalls Ltd.

Thus began Alexandra’s focus on providing workwear – initially for women, and in particular for manufacturing, retail and nursing roles. Specialised shops were opened around the country dedicated to selling readymade garments direct to the public, alongside an extensive salesforce selling to government and corporate organisations. Manufacturing and distribution facilities were established in Bristol and Scotland and Alexandra Workwear, as it then became known, expanded rapidly.

During the 1980’s Alexandra became a PLC and continued to open retail shops and offices across the UK and Europe. By the end of the 1990’s, Alexandra had become the UK’s largest provider of workwear, corporate uniforms and nursing wear.

In 2010, Alexandra and sister companies, Dimensions and Yaffy were acquired by the American retail clothing giant Men’s Wearhouse. With strong financial backing and support from the Men’s Wearhouse, Alexandra will continue to service the needs of business workwear – both here in the UK and around the world, for many generations to come.

 

See our history milestones below

Just click on the forward or back arrows at either end of the timeline below to move through our history milestones.