Stella Cornelius

Stella Cornelius was a major figure in the Sydney fur industry for many decades and later devoted herself to the field of conflict resolution. In her interview she discusses parental influences, her husband’s trade as a furrier, changing fashions in fur, the develpment of modern business management practises, and her commitment to social justice. In the excerpt below Stella recalls Cornelius Furs’ most famous location in the Trust Building in Sydney’s Castlereagh St.

First of all we moved into the city to a tiny, tiny little place in Martin Place, with the factory going off to Wembley House at Railway Square and separating those two functions of it. And then [we] discovered that the owners of the Trust Building, this very unusual basement, basement with windows, that you could see into it from the floor [pavement] was – that the owners could be persuaded to sell their lease on it. And that was several years later – and I have not got a record of the year. Tommy Wendell Hill was the owner of the lease that we bought it from and he ran a dress salon called ‘The Wendell’. Of course, the term “heritage building” was not commonly used at that stage – but we always knew it was a building of historic importance because we were absolutely forbidden to change the façade, or to make those windows bigger or anything like that, because it was part of the integrity of the whole building. We were very conscious of that, or rather I was conscious of it and was the one who was persuasive to my late husband in saying, “No, no, no … for our products – the unusual nature of our products in the mix of fashion products in Sydney – this unusual display, an unusual window, can be used to our advantage”.

Richard Raxworthy