Larry Phillips, who co-founded furniture, accessories and lighting manufacturer Phillips Collection, recently passed away at age 95.
According to his grandson, Jason Phillips, vp/Creative Director at Phillips Collection, “If you asked Larry Phillips what he was, he’d say ‘a businessman.’ 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 U.S. 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 1960s and running a factory there. Larry’s wife, Shirley, joined the company and together they started selling to high-end department stores like Bloomingdales.
Larry and Shirley traveled around the world, collecting beautiful objects from exotic countries such as Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and 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,” Jason says. As they developed a sophisticated eye for antiquities, they became prominent New York dealers in Asian fine arts, selling 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 [my father] Mark and his wife [my mom] Julie to join them on a trip around the world. And so in 1983, Phillips Collection was founded,” Jason remarks.
Larry is survived by his wife, Shirley, sons Mark and Michael, and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.