Clothing guru not short of Stubbies
PHILIP Levy will be remembered for the key role he played in the creation of the iconic Australian shorts, Stubbies.
The Brisbane-born accountant and businessman was a trailblazer in Australia’s textile and clothing industry in the 1960s, not only developing the largest shorts manufacturer in the country but also breaking into the American sports and surfwear market.
Levy’s career in the clothing industry began in 1962 when he was hired by his father-in-law, Edward Fletcher, who had started the shorts and trouser manufacturing firm, EFCO, in 1938 in Fortitude Valley.
EFCO was well known for producing Australian rules football shorts but it also made more-tailored men’s clothing from its Bowen St premises.
Levy started out as secretarytreasurer at EFCO, but by 1967, at the age of 31, he was general manager of the company and overseeing 1000 employees.
EFCO’s steady growth through the 1960s and 1970s led to the company expanding into its own larger, purpose-built facility on Commercial Rd, where it was able to house all cutting, manufacturing, maintenance, sales, warehouse and clerical staff.
Soon after the company was purchased by textile giant Bradmill Industries, Levy and a small cohort of colleagues set about creating the most affordable pair of work shorts on the market.
EFCO took its popular Aussie rules footy shorts and added a hip pocket for a wallet and a fob pocket for change, keys and cigarettes. It called the new garment Stubbies and gave them to Woolworths stores exclusively in 1972 to sell for $1.99 each.
More than 100,000 pairs were sold in the first week and, by the late 1970s, 25,000 pairs of Stubbies were produced every day making EFCO the largest shorts manufacturer in the country.
Extensive travel through Asia and America to buy fabrics and attend conferences opened Levy’s eyes to the potential for Stubbies in the United States and, in 1976, he launched the Brisbane-based brand in the US.
Pitted against labels such as Ocean Pacific, Stubbies held its own and when more than 50,000 pairs of the shorts were sold through Liberty House department store in the first six months, Levy decided to set up shop in California.
In 1977, he settled in San Francisco with his wife and four young children and became chief executive officer of Stubbies USA Pty Ltd.
Within the first four months of arrival, more than $2.5 million of Stubbies stock was distributed across the US. A little over three years later, Stubbies became a household name in California, Hawaii, Texas and Florida.
The company continued to grow in size and profile in the late 1970s and early 1980s, taking part in major sporting events such as the Coors US Open 18ft world championship by sponsoring a boat and commissioning an Australian crew to race against some of the world’s best in San Francisco Bay. The Stubbies boat didn’t place in the race but the media coverage and marketing was worth the effort and investment.
After eight successful years running Stubbies in the US, Levy left the company and America in 1984, when Bradmill was sold to Melbournebased businessman Abraham Goldberg. Goldberg’s firm, the Linter Group, went into liquidation in 1990.
In 1985, Levy and his family returned to Brisbane where he started a business as a consultant to the clothing industry.
Among his clients were wellknown surfwear and sports shops as well as high-profile labels such as Easton Pearson.
His experience in America made Levy a popular speaker at business functions and he was commissioned by the Fijian, Samoan, Vietnamese and other governments to advise on their clothing manufacturing and export industries.
He continued working until recently and only relinquished his tax agent’s licence this year.
Levy was born and raised in Wooloowin. His father, Roy Levy, was a talented cricketer who played against Don Bradman and captained the Queensland Sheffield Shield team several times. Levy was an only child, doted on by his mother Sylvia.
After Wooloowin State School, Levy attended Brisbane Grammar School where he played cricket and hockey at a high level. He left at the end of Year 11 to work full time at an accounting firm while also studying for his accounting qualifications.
Levy met his wife, Lynette Fletcher in 1959 and the couple married in 1962. They built their first home in Brisbane’s western suburb of Kenmore and returned to the same area when they came back from America, before relocating to Bardon in the 1990s.
Described by lifelong friends as a “gentleman’s gentleman”, Levy was an active member of Brisbane’s Jewish community and was awarded life membership of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation for more than 30 years of service to the community.
Levy is survived by his wife, four children and four grandchildren.