Julius Pollack Creations

Preparing for my talk tomorrow, on ’50s fashions, I decided to see if I could find an answer to a question I’d had for many years: one of my favourite frocks was made by a company that I couldn’t find any information on.

This isn’t unusual: there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of fashion manufacturers and designers over the past century and many are not well documented, especially online. Some are significant enough to be collected by major museums, some are documented by historical societies or written about in books but many are short lived and pass through our cultural landscape like shooting stars. Julius Pollack the fashion label appears to be one of these, although it looks like Julius Pollack the man left his mark on Melbourne.

Here’s my dress: you may have seen it in my book ‘Love Vintage’ or during one of the many talks or fashion parades I’ve used it in over the past fifteen years.

Julius Pollack Original, cotton print dress as worn by Becky Lou.

Circa 1950: late ’40s to early ’50s day dress featuring a great ‘atomic’ style print on polished cotton. Side metal zipper and lovely big deep side pockets, piped in black cotton trim. Labelled ‘Julius Pollack Original’.

One of the reasons I use this dress a lot is because of it’s adaptation: a previous wearer unpicked the bib-style front and centre seam, adding hooks and press studs so that it can be easily removed, perhaps for breast-feeding? I love these little personal touches, they’re evidence of wear and how women made their clothing suit their changing lives. It’s a dress with a secret.

This time around, the only thing I found out about Julius Pollack the fashion label was that in 1948, Julius Pollack registered the business name ‘Julius Pollack Creations’. Later he also registered ‘Fashion Weavers’, but the lack of material available, both in actual garments and in archival traces, suggests that he soon found that the rag trade wasn’t for him and he developed his career in other directions.

But thanks to Lesley Sharon Rosenthal and her wonderful book ‘Schmattes’ about the Jewish rag trade in Flinders Lane, I discovered he previously ran a fashion label called ‘Peter Pan Frocks’, which was based at 27 Flinders Lane. They shared a workroom with another company. I found adverts for staff and dresses in the press from 1938 to 1948, including some donations the company made for good causes: the Jewish Welfare Society and the Police Boys Club. So perhaps at that stage he created the new label under his own name. Perhaps it was at the same address?

Here’s what I found out about Julius Pollack the man: he was born in 1904 in Belarus (perhaps Poland or Lithuania), migrated to Australia and married Fay Frieze. They had two children: Norman and Bruce.

Fay and Julius were migrant success stories and very community minded: During WW2, Fay became the Hon. Secretary of the Jewish Women’s Guild, and organised donations of “good and appropriate garments of such excellent quality” for the Red Cross to send to English air-raid victims, and later became the president of the Frances Bourke Houses, which took in Jewish child migrants from Austria and Germany, including Holocaust survivors. In 1966 FB House introduced an annual memorial scholarship in her name to support tertiary education for one of its refugees. The organisation closed in 1992.

Julius became the president of the Australian Amateur Fencing Federation and in 1963 was awarded an MBE: Member of the British Empire for his service to the fencing community. He stood for Malvern council and was elected in 1966, serving as mayor from 1970 to 1972. There’s a pavilion in his name in a Toorak park, perhaps as recognition of his work.

In 1991 he was recognised again for his community work, through the awarding of an Order of Australia medal and he passed away two years later.

So I may not have found out anything about the fashion label but I did find a great story about a family dedicated to their community and making life better for others, achievements I admire. And they’ve left a small number of nice garments, which I also appreciate.

One dress somehow ended up in the US and one of my colleagues sold it a few years ago. I share this photo with her permission, it also looks circa 1950 and so was likely produced around the same time as my dress. Both show a nice appreciation of line and quality fabric and have been well-loved.

Julius Pollack evening dress, photo courtesy Suzie Vazquez of Pinup Dresses.

If you do know more about this label, please let me know: I’d love to fill in the gaps.

UPDATE: Suzanne wrote to let me know about an advert for machinists for ‘J.C. Pollack’ of 27 Flinders Lane in The Age newspaper 7/9/54 so it seems the label might have still been operating at that time. The same advert also mentioned ‘Fay’s Fashions’ of 1225 High St, Malvern: a retail outlet operated by Fay Pollack perhaps?

Suzanne also found a manuscript on file at the State Library of Victoria called ‘Autobiographical Reminiscences‘: here’s a summary, which contains some good information too, which answers a few questions:

Autobiographical reminiscences describing: his childhood in Russia during the 1917 revolution; escape to Rumania in 1921 and life there, in Germany and in Canada; arrival in Australia c. 1936, and subsequent life in Melbourne, where he set up his own dressmaking factory and textile printing business; and was a Malvern City Councillor from 1966 and Mayor from 1970 to 1972; and was involved with the sport of fencing, including arranging the fencing events and being a member of the organizing committee of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, the 1962 Perth Empire Games and the 1966 World Modern Pentathlon Championships held in Victoria. Also includes descriptions of various overseas trips.

Lesley Sharon Rosenthal also got back to advise that Mr Pollack was interred at the Melbourne Cemetery.

Thanks Suzanne and Lesley: great information. Fascinating man and life.

Now I’m wondering if his company printed the dress fabric as well as designing and making it?


  1. I am the Norman Pollack you mention. I had no idea so much was known about my Father’s businesses and other activities. I have never seen any of his dresses, or not since my Mother died, who presumably wore them. He got rid of everything every season, and almost nothing survives. But I do have a lot of his stuff as I am still in his office upstairs at 1225 High Street Armadale.
    He had Commercial Travelers who took a suitcase of his samples round the country, so I am not surprised one survived in Wodonga. His shop in High Street was one of the first that made the street a Fashion hub, long before Chadstone. Each year he made sample cards of the choice of fabric for each style, but not a single one survives. I found one tag down the back of the filing cabinet.
    He had three labels: Julius Pollack Creations was for evening wear and Summer Breeze was day dresses. He also had a line called ‘Gay Deceiver ‘ for maternity dresses at a time when one concealed one’s ‘condition’.
    He was a very modest man and did a lot of behind the scenes voluntary work helping various causes with campaigns, as well as being discretely generous himself.
    His life story is quite astonishing as his family fled from the Bolsheviks when he was young, amongst other adventures.
    He learnt dress-designing in Montreal where the family finally fled and in later years, here, he taught it to private students. I still have some of his blocks.
    When the Jewish Museum did an exhibition about Flinders Lane, I hadn’t known and didn’t submit anything about my Father, so he was barely mentioned. I did ask the curator and they didn’t know much about him. Similar happened on my Mothers side with Frieze Bros suits.
    It was by chance that I did a search for my Father and found you. I am surprised that knowing my name, you did not try to contact my, or my baby Brother in Sydney.
    As to the printing, yes, he would have printed it. He first came here representing Bruck Silk Mills of Montreal to set up a plant here. after he did it for them, he did it for himself and then the War started and it was all taken over for the War-effort.

  2. Thanks Norman: this is brilliant! Any material you do have from his fashion business might find a home in the collections of the RMIT Design Archive or the Melbourne Museum if you’re looking for one. It would be great to have these artefacts available to researchers. Speaking of which, apologies for not contacting either you or your brother: thank you for reaching out and if I research more on the label I will definitely get in touch. All the best, Nicole.

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