Client: Alexandra Workwear
Project: New corporate headquarters
Project Value: £250,000
‘Alexandra’ is a long established Bristol based company, specialising in workwear for the retail, healthcare and hospitality sectors. Bought out by American company ‘Mens Warehouse’, who at the same time bought the UK’s leading corporate clothing company, Dimensions; they now have plans to expand into Europe.
“We used to occupy old, dated premises next door. It was full of small offices off corridors, very segmented. The brief for our new office was simply to create an airy collaborative space. But underlying that; we wanted to be a family again, to restore that feeling. Our American parent company had invested in the brand, but beyond that is a restoration of our core values, our core competencies and family values.” The key to what you see here is the transformation of a company that had been on its knees. “That’s what this building represents – a massive restructuring within the business”, a future, a company refocused and going forward.
It’s a bright and airy new office housing over 200 staff. There’s a quiet buzz of energy, people are busy and they’re working hard. Yet beyond that, the building really is symbolic of a new start. “This was essentially a warehouse shed – we’ve stripped it and converted it.”
“The vision was clear and simple. We wanted a bright, airy, collaborative environment. And, importantly, we wanted everyone under one roof in order to remove departmental dislocations. The way technology works today means that people don’t have to sit together. But we recognised that by developing a well-designed open plan workplace we could change the company’s culture going forward.”
“Heatons had worked in the past on a project for Dimensions, which at least gave me a phone number! I contacted a couple of other would-be companies and got a minimal initial response. All I had was my brief of ‘open, airy and collaborative’. I had an empty shell and I needed help to envision how the new space was going to work. Heatons”
“Nicky Humphray spent a lot of time planning how the space would work. Through questionnaires and interviews with department heads, Heatons assessed people’s needs, juxtapositions, storage requirements and so on. Of course there were natural concerns about a move to an open plan environment; issues such as noise, privacy, desk size and so on. But between us we sold it internally by involvement – we released and agreed workstation layouts to department heads well ahead of the move. And we instituted a ‘move champions forum’, which allowed all sorts of issues to be aired and resolved in advance. As a result we got buy-in from the staff to what we were doing in terms of space allocation, IT, the time frames – what to expect. Because of this careful pre-planning and the work of key departments such as IT, everything was moved over a weekend. It was unbelievable! I have to say I was calm because I had been given complete control; I enjoyed it. I also felt that perhaps this was the best thing I was ever going to do!”
Beyond that simple execution of the project though, there’s an uplift of style and sensitivity. “I wanted to make it look interesting,” confirms Peter Smith, Project Manager at Alexandra. “No, more than that. I wanted to make a statement. I wanted it to look awesome. My project leader Roger Williams shared, supported and added to this vision, and a great looking space was the result.”
This is an unfussy, practical design. It’s appropriate, unpretentious, contemporary and stylish. Milani’s ‘Wendy’ chair, selected for use in the canteen areas and the clean aesthetics of Quadrifoglio’s Officity X2 Italian styling and sleek functionality; complimented by metal storage pedestals from Dieffebi, means that all in all it’s a great space that clearly works well.
As a symbolic building, as a place that signifies a company moving forward, Alexandra’s new headquarters is hard to beat. There’s a feeling, almost palpable, of new focus. The rebirth of a brand indeed.