PHILLIPS SHIRTS HERITAGE
The Phillips Shirt you wear today has been over 60 years in the making, with a bloodline from Czechoslovakia, craftsmanship learned in Paris, and a name that has been proudly made in Melbourne since 1952.
In the beginning
It was post-war immigration that brought two young Czechoslovakians to Melbourne in 1950 and shortly after a chance introduction between a mutual friend saw bachelor Philip Phillips take up lodgings with Alex Peterfreund, his wife Greta and their young daughter Susie.
After World War II, Philip spent several years living in Paris learning to make tailored shirts the European way. This style of tailoring would eventually put their shirts under the spotlight against the backdrop of Melbourne’s rag trade.
By day the men worked full time jobs but by night the two new friends would cut a few shirts on the apartment floor from rolls of fabric they had bought, which they stored against the sofa!
The shirts they cut went against the grain of the stiff starchy collars that were being produced at the time. Instead, they opted for a supple European cut with a soft collar that would become their trademark design.
With Alex’s wife and friends helping out by stitching the shirts together, the two young men ventured out, with limited English, and tentatively approached stores to buy their wares.
And so Phillips Shirts was born. The men settled on the name Phillips with a double ‘L’, which they considered to be more European and because it sounded better than Alex’s Shirts.
It was a Hobart city department store that gave them their big break, with the owner being so impressed by the quality and craftsmanship that he placed an order with Alex for 800 shirts.
Overwhelmed but ecstatic, Alex explained he would struggle to produce an order of this volume so quickly, but the store owner asked him to begin production and he would accept stock as it became available.
A little piece of history is made
With that one big order to spur them on Alex and Philip established their first factory on the third floor of a building above a menswear store and a barbershop on Little Bourke Street, right in the heart of Melbourne’s rag trade industry.
With no goods lift in the building, carrying everything by hand up and down those stairs was as much a part of their business as cutting the best shirts in Melbourne. The two men worked 18 hours a day for the next seven years, and in 1958 Phillips Shirts established a factory in Little Lonsdale Street where the shirts are still made today.
Alex and Philip weren’t just business partners; they were more like brothers, with Philip continuing to live with the Peterfreund family until his later years when he relocated to an assisted living facility. Alex and Greta visited him every single day for three years until Philip’s passing in 1996.
Sadly in 2011 Alex also passed away, leaving behind a legacy that spanned nearly 60 years for his family to carry on.
Alex’s son Andrew now heads Phillips Shirts. After joining the business in 1988, he worked his way through various departments before becoming the head buyer for the company, building strong relationships with fabric suppliers around the world.
The factory is one of the last remaining shirt manufacturers in Australia and is still considered to be one of the best shirt makers in the country
With an innovative team at the helm, Phillips Shirts has expanded its business to include two new brands: the Lady Phillips range of cushions made from vintage European shirt fabrics and Liberty prints and; the Phillips Vintage range of Italian imports from the 70s and 80s.
When those two friends sat down on their apartment floor to cut shirts, they were hoping to make a few extra bucks. What they did was change the tailoring style of men’s shirts in Australia and the course of their lives.