Sir (David) Fletcher Jones OBE (14 August 1895 – 22 February 1977) was an Australian clothing manufacturer and retailer, and a pioneer in workforce participation. It has been claimed that "Arguably, no single person or firm had done more to transform and, for a time, homogenize Australian dress standards, particularly among men, than Fletcher Jones and his staff."
Fletcher Jones was born in Bendigo, Victoria, the son of a Cornish miner. In his childhood he suffered from a bad stammer, but he practised reading aloud to overcome this. He left school at age 12.
He served with Australian forces in France in World War I where he suffered shell shock after being buried alive for several hours. On his return his stammer had returned, but he was determined to defeat it so he commenced a door-to-door sales business in Melbourne. He then decided to become a hawker in the western Victorian region. He purchased a menswear store in Warrnambool in 1924. His business expanded, and in 1941 he decided to form a new wholesale business making nothing but high-quality ready-made trousers. His first store Fletcher Jones Trousers Pty Ltd was located in Melbourne.
In 1946 Fletcher Jones moved to making all trousers from personal fittings, and to deal direct to the public. In 1948 he constructed a clothing factory on the site of a rubbish dump near Warrnambool, which had once been a quarry. The site was extensively renewed with gardens, and became a much-visited tourist site. In the late 1940s he began to turn his business into a co-operative, named Fletcher Jones & Staff Pty Ltd.
He structured his business so that all the employees owned shares in the company. Initially the Jones family had a two-thirds interest and the staff one-third, but the balance gradually swung so that by the 1970s the staff held over 50 per cent of the shares. From the mid-1950s, the business also made women's attire.
Fletcher Jones & Staff was awarded a contract to outfit the Australian women's team for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. At its peak, the company had over 2,700 employees and 55 stores in six states and the ACT.
Although he had always expressed Labor sympathies in word and deed, he publicly renounced his political allegiances when the Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret made it known they were agnostics.
His first wife died in 1970, and he remarried in 1971. He published his autobiography Not By Myself in 1976. Sir Fletcher Jones died in Warrnambool in 1977, and was buried there. He was survived by his second wife, and by the daughter and two sons of his first marriage.
His company was sold in 1998.
A one-hour Australian documentary The Fabric of a Dream: The Fletcher Jones Story screened on SBS Television on 7 September 2007, 27 March 2009 (SBS One), 30 December 2009 (SBS One), 10 November 2010 and again on 17 June 2011 (SBS Two). It is available from Film Australia.
Fate of the business
On 8 December 2011, the more than 40 Fletcher Jones stores were placed into administration. This occurred in the same week as the death of Sir Fletcher Jones's son from his first marriage, David Fletcher Jones (4 February 1935 - 6 December 2011).
- Jones, Sir David Fletcher (1895 - 1977) Biographical Entry - Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
- London Cornish Association Newsletter, Spring 2010
- It's an Honour: OBE
- It's an Honour: Knight bachelor
- "Fabric of a Dream, The Fletcher Jones Story". National FIlm and Sound Archive. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
- "The Fabric of a Dream: The Fletcher Jones Story". Film Australia
- Roberts, Greg (9 December 2011). "Fletcher Jones placed in administration after a century in menswear trade". Courier-Mail. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
- ABC News, 14 December, Administrators close 15 Fletcher Jones stores
- "Fifteen stores to close at Fletcher Jones as buyers circle". Fashion Source (Melbourne). 15 December 2012.