When my friend Emma Clarke invited me to spend the afternoon with her at work a couple of weeks ago I really wasn’t expecting the treasure trove of mint condition vintage clothing and fabric that awaited me inside the Phillips Shirt factory on Little Lonsdale Street.
Launched in 1952 by Phillip Phillips and Alex Peterfreund, Phillips shirts came to life after the two Czechoslovakian immigrants started cutting patterns and fabric as a hobby at night. The brand quickly grew and Phillips Shirts soon had a reputation for producing quality Australian made menswear right here in Melbourne.
As the 1950′s gave way to the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s the company continued to grow from strength to strength. As well as producing their own range of men’s formal and business shirts, the two founders started to import a large range of Italian knits, leather jackets, Liberty fabrics and other bits and pieces, much of which remains untouched in the back rooms of the once bustling workplace.
“I remember my first visit to the factory” starts Emma over coffee later that afternoon “I was standing in the front doorway and I said this is amazing, it’s a goldmine“. Working as the Phillips brand manager, Clarke has taken it upon herself to revive the once well known brand with the help of two new diffusion lines, Lady Phillips (a range of women’s clothing and homewares including vintage Liberty print cushions) and Phillips vintage, which takes advantage of the eclectic selection of Phillips Shirts that remain from 1960s and 70s along with a range of clothing left behind after the company’s busy period of importing garments from Italy in the 1970s and 80s.
The sheer amount of vintage fabric and stock still packed away in the factory is a little overwhelming. Emma leads me through rooms filled with industrial draws and boxes containing men’s shirts, jumpers and jackets. Other rooms are stocked floor to ceiling with rolls of fabric, everything from cottons to silks. Emma explains that she is slowly working her way through the stock with a little help from the company’s buyer and General Manager, Andrew Peterfreund.
Clarke has put herself in charge of cleaning and sorting the stock – ready to sell in the factory’s brand new second floor retail space Archive.
Recently open to the public, Archive is a chocolate box filled with artifacts and old furnishings, current and vintage collections of Phillips Shirts, the Phillips Vintage range of unworn men’s garments; and the Lady Phillips collection of homewares and women’s accessories; including new and vintage Liberty London print shirts, cushions and ladies collar necklaces – a cute concept that Emma designed herself, “In August last year I made a few sample cushions and started selling them at Thread Den Markets, I wanted to be able to use up some of the archived fabrics because the prints are all just so amazing but maybe not relevant for men’s shirts and it’s all just bloomed from there.” business sure is booming alright, and Archive is a must visit for any vintage fashion lover.
Archive can be found on the second floor of the Phillips Shirts factory at 274 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, opposite Thousand Pound Bend café. The store is open Wednesday through to Saturday 10.30am – 3.30pm