A.E. Allen & Co
Aristoc one of the UKï¿½s leading hosiery brands, manufacturing a wide range of high quality tights, stockings, socks and leg accessories. Their ranges feature the latest fashion colours and styles and all their products include cutting-edge technology and materials designed to provide the highest levels of comfort, fit and performance.
A great British heritage brand with its roots firmly set in the Midlands, they still make the majority of their products in their own production unit based in a protected world heritage site in the Amber Valley in Derbyshire.
The name Aristoc was registered in 1924 by A.E. Allen & Co, a hosiery company based in the Nottinghamshire village of Langley Mill. The companyï¿½s position as pioneers in the industry called for an ambitious plan of expansion that would rely upon the quality of the brand. The first advertisement for Aristoc stockings appeared in 1926, presenting us as ï¿½The Aristocrat of Silk Stockings", demonstrating the companyï¿½s understanding of the importance of advertising and marketing activity from the very beginning.
1933 saw the first edition of Cocoon, Aristocï¿½s house magazine carrying news to customers all over the world. In 1934 the company name changed from A.E. Allen to Aristoc Ltd. In that same year the company became publicly listed. It also developed a state-of-the-art product and materials research facility that was hugely innovative for its time.
Aristoc was the largest company in the country to specialise in fine-gauge, fully fashioned silk stockings, further acknowledging it as the leading brand for quality hosiery.
Aristoc was required to make its contribution to the war effort by providing space for the Ministry of Aircraft Production in the 1940s. The production of silk stockings was banned by the government and all stocks frozen, though silk stocks were required for the production of parachutes. Stock shortages that followed resulted in a system of fair shares for all customers large and small, which although as distasteful as rationing, created much goodwill between the company and its customers.
1954 saw the introduction of Aristocï¿½s on-site dye house which not only saved on costs, as there was no longer a need to transport the dye, but improved quality with total control over the production of the stockings.
Italian machinery manufacturers were developing a circular seam free knitting machine that was set to revolutionise the stockings business. Aristoc was fortunate enough to have the floorspace and could work with both types of machines. The first seam free machines were delivered into Langley Mill in 1959 signalling an age of unprecedented demand, with Aristoc representatives taking orders in one week for one monthï¿½s production, often collecting production from the factory to take directly into stores.
Hardly had the demand for seam free stockings been met when there was a new innovation in the hosiery market - tights. It was in 1967 that Aristoc first began producing tights using new techniques of joining separate bodies and legs. Over-production, price-cutting and the wearing of trousers with knee-highs was causing concern for all hosiery manufacturers, with foreign imports rapidly becoming a threat to the British manufacturers. The British Branded Hosiery Group was formed to combat this threat by promoting British brands to the public.
During the 1970s Aristoc launched ranges of textures and shades, chosen in conjunction with leading fashion houses. The new ranges were looked upon with suspicion by retailers but, having strong fashion appeal, prejudice against the new image began to fade. Aristoc reported record sales figures in 1977 proving that fashion had given hosiery the impetus for which it had been searching.
In 1984 a radical decision was taken to dramatically prune the range available, presenting only proven fast selling styles. What remained was the flexibility to continue with seasonal and fashion shades. New style packaging was introduced to give a clean and uncluttered look to the hosiery fixture. The 1980s saw power dressing and significant interest in leg wear. Aristoc developed the market for patterned tights, bows and colours. During this period new up to date knitting machines were introduced, together with computerised dyeing and machine packing, the first in the country. During 1988 Aristoc ran its ï¿½Weï¿½ll be your second skinï¿½ advertising campaign in trade and consumer press, reinforcing the message of perfect fitting, highest quality hosiery.
The stretch and cling of Lycra changed the hosiery market, ensuring a perfect fit. Aristoc was the first hosiery manufacturer to incorporate Lycra into its products.
Into the 1990s, Aristocï¿½s manufacturing plant was transferred to West Mill, Belper in Derbyshire. This coincided with Aristocï¿½s first ever television advertising campaign for its Vitality, Sheer Sensation and Ultra 5 ranges. Further TV campaigns followed.
In 1995, a major marketing project was launched to strengthen the brandï¿½s image. High profile associations with organisations such as with the English National Ballet were formed and 1998 also saw top model and television personality, Melanie Sykes launched as the ï¿½Legs of Aristocï¿½.
Aristoc continued to grow in terms of sales and influence throughout the decade, supported by various innovative new product launches including Bodytoners and Slimline, a market leading concept in performance hosiery ï¿½ tights that made you look slimmer!
As women become more body conscious Aristoc continues to lead the way in shaping and performance ranges. Technical innovation allows beauty creams and slimming aids to be encapsulated into products resulting in unprescedented press coverage for the brand; this together with two cinema campaigns ensured that the brand remains at the leading edge.
This decade was about films for Aristoc with product placement in two huge blockbuster films, "Moulin Rouge" and the James Bond film, ï¿½Die Another Dayï¿½. Fabulous marketing campaigns and dedicated ranges had women clambering for fishnets! 2004 was the brandï¿½s 80th Anniversary, celebrating at a time when fashion became contemporary retro. Designer collaborations with Tanya Sarne, founder of Ghost, and links with London West End shows such as Rod Stewartï¿½s ï¿½Tonightï¿½s the Nightï¿½ allowed Aristoc to shout loudly in a competitive market place. A natural progression from the heritage background of supporting English National Ballet, Riverdance and Fosse.
When dance fever hit the UK in the form of the BBCï¿½s "Strictly Come Dancing", Aristoc linked up with contestant Camilla Dallerup, who became the face of the companyï¿½s dance-inspired fashion range in Autumn 2006.
Aristoc Brand Ambassadors Campaign was launched during April 2007 fronted by influential women all of which genuinely loved the brand. Sue Clague, Annabel Croft, Sital Punja, Diane Thompson, Debbie Lovejoy & June Sarpong. Featured in numerous press articles, these women would inspire consumers to nominate their own Ultra Woman to win the accolade of Aristoc Ultra Woman of 2007.
Autumn 2007 sees the launch of the new Bodytoners range with unprecedented coverage in the press for the Hourglass Toner. Many London stores reported waiting lists as the whole seasons stock was sold out overnight. By making a shrewd investment during the early part of 2007 Gok Wan was secured to act as brand ambassador for the range. With his fantastic styling credentials & a real empathy with women he was the perfect person to endorse the range.
Mark Heyes was approached to become the 2008/9 ambassador resulting in some fantastic coverage on TVï¿½s GMTV & This Morning programmes where during independent reviews the products were voted best performing in the market place. We ran a consumer competition to find the Body Beautiful. The winners won a style makeover and photo shoot with Mark Heyes.