Any businessman working in Brisbane after 1950 will be familiar with the well-known suit manufacturer George Symons Suits. It was with a great deal of pleasure then that, as a result of my profile in the Consultants Register in the Professional Historians Association (Queensland) webpage, I was asked by George’s granddaughter to write the history of the family behind the firm. Because I had been so lacking in the history of my own grandfather (it is limited to just three sentences!) I jumped at the chance, full of admiration for her far sightedness.
George Symons was born to a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church on the tiny island of Kastellorizo in 1895. Because of its strategic position just 2 km off the Turkish coast it straddles the two continents of Asia and Europe and has been controlled by many different countries over the ages. The fact that it has a magnificent, deep-water harbour has made it greatly sought after.
After WWI the economy of Kastellorizo, like the island itself, was in ruins, and its inhabitants were leaving in droves. George had been living in nearby Alexandria in Egypt where he married and learned the tailoring trade from his brother in law. His initial intention was to migrate to America where his wife’s family were involved in the fur trade. However for whatever reason he missed the boat so it was suggested that he migrate to Australia – the other country of Greek migration. This he did in 1924 and set up a successful tailoring business in the Melbourne’s prestigious Block Arcade in Collins Street. There he employed many of his Greek family and friends until 1950 when, on the advice of one of his brothers, he sold up and came to Queensland, where he bought a bigger factory in Ipswich. After an unsuccessful few years George transferred the business to Brisbane’s CBD – initially to Charlotte Street and then to Elizabeth Street next to the Treasury Hotel.
George was gradually to hand over control of the business to his son, Sim, who was later to be joined by Sim’s son, George, who introduced many advertising ideas for the firm. Most successful was the firm’s sports advertising, where, in 1972 George Symons Suits started giving a suit to the player of the week. Then they sponsored the Brisbane Bears, who later became the Lions and were also involved in other forms of sport. Tony Roche, the legendary tennis player and a relative, was also doing some advertising for the firm but asked for nothing in return.
The opening of the Myer Centre resulted in George Symons Suits moving to addresses South Brisbane, where it was eventually sold.
George Symons Suits employed many thousands of people over its half century of business in Brisbane. If you, the reader, have a story, either as an employee or a customer, please send it on to me. Like all family histories, it will never be finished, but I will be very happy to add your contribution to the saga of George Symons Suits.
6 thoughts on “George Symons Suits”
HI To Whom it May Concern My Name Is Pamela van Deurse I am 77 years of age As 18 year old I Desperately wanted to be a tailor–ess so I approached George Symons and I started working for him My memory of that time was jogged just tonight as I was watching an advert for suits I remember that I was very eager to do everything But during my time there during the move from Charlotte street I think I got on the wrong side of George I think he was the brother of the owner as I was asked to cut a suit out and George came to do it as girls should not be doing such things and I should not ask customers on which side he dressed or measure his inside leg So he took over the suit and if my memory serves me right He cut off or maybe just thumb cut it deeply and I stood and laughed at him I think I may Have been asked to leave after that P S I went on to be a cutter of Ladies wear until the rag trade downfall Now I am happily retired I hope this little bit of infomation is helps you Regards Pam van Deurse My Name then was Pamela Gourlay and lived ar red hill
Gooday, I recently found out that the factory George purchased in Ipswich was the Howes Clothing Factory. I have a connection with the Howes name in my family tree & I was wondering if you know anything of the history of the Howes Clothing factory in Ipswich. I have a photo of the staff in front of the building taken in 1949 just before it moved to Brisbane. Mr Howes & Mr Symons are in the photo. (I was born in Ipswich)
Hi Judy, many thanks for your response to my George Symons article.
I do not have any information on the Howes Factory in Ipswich, however, both I and the Symons family would love to see the photo of Mr Howes and Mr Symons in 1949. Are you able to email me a scanned copy? (send to email@example.com)
As far as the Howes name goes, I have a faint recollection of my father having an association with a Bernie Howes clothing factory in Manning Street, South Brisbane in the 1950s/60s. Could this have been the factory that George Symons later moved to?
(I hope I haven’t confused the Howes’ name in this case).
Looking forward to your reply.
I’m the great grandson of George Symons. Did you end up getting that pic of Mr Symons and Mr Howes? Or do you have anymore? If so will it be possible to email them to me please?
In 1964, some friends and I from Gippsland, Vic. were on holidays at Surfers. One of the friends, George Symons, from Lakes Entrance, went to Brisbane to meet up with the Brisbane George Symons. I think he was adopted by an Emmanuel Symons who owned a motel at Lakes Entrance. He also had a family connection to a Kyriakou family. What is the family connection? Just wondering?
Sorry, Ian. I don’t know anything about George from Lakes Entrance.