VINTAGE fabric once earmarked for men's shirts is getting new life as trendy cushions.
The treasure trove of fabrics being put into service at city shirtmaker, Phillips Shirts, is part of a move to keep the 60-year-old business evolving.
Founded in 1952, the Little Lonsdale St manufacturer has continued trading while most local manufacturing has closed its doors.
Looking at ways to use its workforce, inspiration came from the rolls of fabric lining the workroom.
Bookkeeper Emma Clarke came up with the idea of turning the fabric into cushions.
Most of the fabrics are European and no longer available as the mills they were produced in have closed.
Many date back to the 1970s, some are sought-after Liberty prints, while others are so old they are fashionable again.
Ms Clarke has had the machinists experimenting with a line of cushions, in various sizes, under the new Lady Phillips label.
Phillips Shirts managing director Andrew Peterfreund said in addition to private label manufacturing, Phillips made aprons for the hospitality industry and imported shirts.
"It is tough to keep any manufacturing going with high costs and we are looking to diversify," Mr Peterfreund said.
Shirts are still handmade on the premises, but the call for more formal shirts had declined.
Mr Peterfreund, who joined the family business in 1988, said they were looking at ways to keep the business evolving.
Phillips Shirts was founded in 1952 by his father, Alex, and a friend, Philip Phillips.
The pair emigrated from Czechoslovakia after the war, in 1949.
Mr Phillips was a boarder in the Peterfreund's Windsor home and had been trained in made-to-measure shirtmaking in Paris.
By day the men held down jobs and at night they cut out shirts on the floor of the house.
Its unique place in Melbourne manufacturing has seen Phillips Shirts called on to produce costumes for productions such as Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys and 1970s-themed commercials.
The new business is taking small steps and so far Ms Clarke has been able to place the cushions in trendy homewares outlets including Moss, Thread Den and Bob Boutique in Bendigo.
A blog has been launched and they are looking at opening the doors of the Little Lonsdale St building to shoppers on a regular basis.
Mr Peterfreund said they were still working out where to take the new homewares side of the business. Scarves, employing rolls of beautiful silk fabric, were another idea on the drawing board.
Net link: www.ladyphillips.blogspot.com