Global Style Pioneer: Larry Phillips

Larry Phillips (1917 to 2013)

Never one to shy away from connecting dots, even if they are 12,000 miles apart!

If you asked Larry Phillips what he was, he’d say a business man. If you asked anyone who knew Larry what he was, the answer would be more like ‘tastemaker’ or ‘visionary’.

Larry was born in New York in 1917 and attended Brooklyn College where he graduated at the age of 19. He then went to serve his country in Germany during WWII, where his platoon was amongst the first US troops to invade the concentration camps. He came back to join a fledgling dress business with his father and brother after the war. They evolved into manufacturing and began to travel to Hong Kong in the late 60’s. At this point, Larry’s wife Shirley Phillips joined the company and together they started selling to high end department stores like Bloomingdales. Running a factory in Hong Kong kept the pair traveling around the world. They would collect beautiful objects from amazing countries most of us hadn’t heard of at the time and surely couldn’t point to on a map; Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos. Friends would visit their home on Long Island and see the most wonderful furniture and décor pieces and were enthralled, not only by the design and craftsmanship, but by the stories Larry and Shirley would tell. The iconography, motif and trips through the jungles of Indonesia to reach the one village that was carving stones with a magic moving center into what they call the Kalimantan Egg. As they developed a sophisticated eye for antiquities, they became prominent NY dealers in Asian fine arts. They sold to the Met, LACMA, Chicago Art Institute, British Museum and the Stuttgart Museum. They saw great opportunity to bring this global style to the furniture industry and asked their son Mark and his wife Julie to join them on a trip around the world.

And so in 1983, Phillips Collection was founded...