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Phillips Shirts

Phillips Shirts: Traditional Craftsmanship In Melbourne’s Rag Trade


Phillips Shirts is both a designer of men’s shirting and distributor of textiles. Operating for over sixty years, the Australian firm is the last sustained factory in Melbourne still exhibiting the traditional methods of construction with most of its original team members. And it remains a prominent fixture in the local rag trade.

The Sixties saw Australian designers reach out to local manufacturers, sourcing the beautiful stock of fabrics inherently linked to culture of the Great South Land.

It was during this time that textile designers felt most encouraged. Many began producing hand-colored, printed and painted silks, as well as woven wools, and dyed discharge – complementing the devoré prints, ground velvets and ocher designs already being produced based on traditional Aboriginal body painting.

As well as textile production, Australian firms learned to hone in on textile sourcing. And this is where Philip Phillips and Alex Peterfreund enter the story. Co-owners of Melbourne’s Phillips Shirts, the designer duo and their enterprise were prominent contributors to Australia’s international sourcing landscape back then – and still are, some sixty years on.

Phillips Shirts delivers incredible shirting craftsmanship and fabric detail to their clients. With a dedicated team and long-lasting work community, the firm is personable in their approach, with many clients attracted to both the elaborate textile patterns and the powerful background story associated with the brand.

Due to post-war immigration, Philip Phillips and Alex Peterfreund established their trade in Melbourne. Peterfreund and his wife Greta needed a lodger to help with rent during the time of their arrival. Philip presented them with the solution – shirt making.

“Phillip’s experience in tailoring, which he mastered in Paris, gave the company a European point of view in Melbourne’s rag trade,” explains Peterfreund.

The main innovation in Philip’s construction was the method of cutting the collar by applying a soft interlining. This was an improvement on the stuffy, starchy collars found in regular shirts at the time.

During the start up phases on their company, Phillips and Peterfreund worked full time at their day jobs and by night cut shirts on their apartment floor from rolls of fabric, which they stored against the sofa.

The two men received help from Greta, her children, and family friends by stitching the shirts together. The early stages of the company were a true family affair and this remains a core value today.

Phillips Shirts’ big break came when Hobart City Department store placed an order of eight hundred shirts. The men informed the store of their small team and explained the time it would take for the order to be filled. Hobart City weren’t bothered by the delay and told the men to deliver the shirts upon finishing.

“From this initial big order, grew the first shirt 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.”

For seven years, the Phillip’s factory stayed on the third floor where Phillips and Peterfreund worked eighteen hours a day carrying supplies manually up and down stairs.


“In 1958 Phillips Shirts established a factory on Little Lonsdale Street, where the shirts are still made today.”

The Phillips Shirts factory is the last sustained factory in Melbourne still exhibiting the traditional methods of construction with most of its original team members.

By sourcing the shirt fabrics from Liberty London and Italy during annual buying trips, the company boasts an exquisite collection of the best European fabrics. Today, Phillips Shirts extends its shirting collection to global network and welcomes designers to buy and work with the very same fabrics they use and love.

The Phillips Shirt collection is available for purchase online with Le Souk.

The article was written by Benito, and appears courtesy of Le Souk.

Website: www.lesouk.co