We present you hereunder with a brief background of the history of Phillips Shirts.Phillips Shirts was founded in 1952 by two young migrants, Alex Peterfreund and Philip Phillips who came to Australia in 1950 from post war Czechoslovakia.
Each had a day-time job and Phillip being a bachelor, was looking for a place to live. Mutual friends put him in touch with Alex who was already married with a baby girl.
Philip, after World War 2, lived in Paris for a few years and it was there that he learnt how to make custom tailored shirts. He applied his skills when he and Alex decided to cut a few shirts at night time after their day jobs, to earn some extra income. They bought some fabric rolls which they kept in the sofa and cut the shirts on the apartment floor. Alex’s wife and family friends stitched the shirts together and the two young men with their limited English, tentatively approached the shops to buy their wares.
They produced shirts with a soft European cut and a soft relaxed collar as opposed to the stiff starchy collars that were generally being produced at that time.
They decided to name the business “Phillips Shirts” after Philip but with “two ll’s” as it sounded better than Alex’s Shirts! Slowly but surely their shirts gained popularity and their big break came a few months later when Alex travelled to Hobart and showed the samples to a city store. The proprietor told Alex to leave the samples over the lunch break at which time they would deliberate whether to purchase. They told Alex that they would purchase over 800 shirts and Alex became dizzy with the prospect.
He went away overwhelmed and ecstatic but at the same time did not know how he would produce so many shirts. He returned to the store to tell them that he would struggle with the quantity but the store-owner told him to begin production and that as the shirts became available they would accept the stock, no matter how long. He even offered Alex money to assist in buying the fabric but Alex declined the offer. That was the Australian way at that time – true fairness and mate-ship.
Philip and Alex established a factory shortly after in Little Bourke Street on the third floor on top of Peter Jackson Menswear and on the 2nd floor was a men’s barber shop with about 12 barber’s in it. There was no goods lift in that building and everything was lugged up by hand. Alex recalls that they worked 18 hours a day for the first seven years. In 1960 they moved the factory to Little Lonsdale Street where it stands to this day.
Philip not only lived with Alex and his family until his passing in 1996 but they were business partners and friends until his death, in fact more like brothers.
Philip ran the factory and Alex managed the sales side of the business. They never became the biggest shirt manufacturer but they were renowned for their quality and were always considered by the trade to be the best shirt makers in the country.
Sadly Alex passed away this February at the age of 87. The business continues under the guidance of Alex’s son, Andrew, and the factory is one of the last remaining shirt factories in Australia with its production occurring on the one site without any out-door workers. Proudly, it is still considered to be the best shirt–maker in the land with its high level of quality and exactness and hopes to continue in that manner for many years to come notwithstanding the onslaught of imported shirts from China and elsewhere.