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Thdr feature

Meet THEODORE, the Aussie Tailor Transforming Suits into Heirlooms


“What’s the most valuable garment in your wardrobe?” A clean-cut, impeccably dressed tailor asks me as he takes my measurements. I rattle through internally for a second, trying to paint a visual picture of a wardrobe I know is almost as cluttered as my cognitive recollection at the moment. As I find myself struggling to name one item, it dawns on me that while some pieces may hold monetary value, none truly possess the kind of sentimental value that I could pass down.

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Tim Aquino is the founder of Theodore (THDR), a Sydney-based custom-tailored menswear brand born during the COVID-19 pandemic. With over a decade of experience in the fashion industry, Tim’s passion for garments has seen him work as a stylist in Sydney and New York City, advising NBA players, television personalities, and politicians.

“My most valuable item of clothing is my Lolo’s jumper,” he tells me as he swiftly memorises the measurements he’s taking of me. ‘Lolo’ translates to grandpa in Filipino, and for Tim, the legacy of this piece holds the weight of another life full of memories.

“My Lolo was a significant figure in my life. He was a carpenter and a breadwinner who travelled the world for work. He built the first house my mum lived in,” Tim tells me in a moment of vulnerability, his eyes welling as he speaks. “Unfortunately, he was hit by a car, which was a traumatic experience for me. I have vivid memories of the day he passed.”

It was then, in an unexpectedly tender moment, that I understood the true meaning behind the THDR brand, which Tim describes as the “antithesis of fast fashion.”

“True sustainability for us is how long a product stays with the consumer and how it passes down generationally. My most valuable garment is my grandfather’s jumper because I remember him vividly always wearing it. I wish I could see where he wore it, all those significant events. That’s the thought behind making garments smarter and more meaningful.”

For Tim and his team, it’s about creating truly unique, intergenerational garments that can weave a rich tapestry of stories, and he’s got a few of his own.

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From Photocopiers to Precision Tailoring

Asking Tim how he got into the industry in the first place, he tells me how prior to tailoring, he started off as a door-to-door salesman, selling photocopiers. “I studied psychology but didn’t excel. I knew I was good with people, so I got into sales, selling the toughest product—photocopiers—door-to-door.”

But like any go-getter who’s hungry to make it in the industry and make sales, you’ve got to have unique tricks up your sleeve. For Tim, selling door-to-door, it was looking good. “I was always really well-dressed because during my uni days, I worked at a menswear retailer, so I was always well-dressed. I thought if I looked good, I could probably at least open a door, and then sell the photocopier.”

“This was a whole other kettle of fish. But going door-to-door selling photocopiers was the start of me acquiring the skills of selling, knowing how people interact with salesmen, and selling the most difficult product.”

From there, Tim transitioned into becoming a corporate stylist, going door-to-door selling suits for another startup. It ended up being his gateway into the big bad world of custom tailoring, but it wasn’t easy.

“This smaller startup didn’t pay me for six months, which was a tough learning experience. After that, I did a stint in Singapore and then came back to Australia.”

Following this, he joined Australian-based online tailoring brand InStitchu, running its New York showroom. Over eight years and around 14,000 body measurements later, the entrepreneurial spirit broke through.

The Birth of THDR

For many, if not most, the COVID-19 pandemic was a real shake-up and a turning point. For Tim and his business partner Sean Fagan, it became a breeding ground for new dreams to be birthed.

“It was a transitional time. We came back from New York and ended up living with my parents for a year. COVID was a catalyst, providing the perfect timing to start. Sean and I worked late nights, you know, your typical startup journey. We’re still in the trenches, but the value of our work is evident.”

“We really went in pretty hard on tech development during COVID, knowing there would be no physical contact. The timing of AI maturity was right for our application. We’ve been able to suit up people from Alaska to Europe to the Philippines using this simple technology. It’s saved a lot of wedding parties where groomsmen are spread across the globe. It democratises the experience, which we’re proud of.”

Innovative Technology: Pocket Tailor

Amid a crucial time for the fashion industry when physical contact was limited, Tim and Sean began to explore new technological solutions for custom tailoring. They focused on developing the Pocket Tailor App, a contactless measurement tool that uses deep learning technology to take 83 unique body measurements. The technology allows clients to get perfectly fitted suits without physical contact, addressing a significant pain point in traditional tailoring.

“We thought, how do we standardise the measurement process at scale? The Pocket Tailor app was developed to address the variability in manual measurements due to human error and the tension of tape. By using deep learning, the app ensures consistency across all measurements, making the custom fit precise and reliable.”

Tim explains the Pocket Tailor app is their effort to modernise and simplify the tailoring process. “It’s about providing a seamless and precise experience for our customers, no matter where they are in the world. The app allowed us to continue providing custom-tailored suits without the need for in-person fittings.”

Revolutionising Fashion with NFC

The second piece of technology Aquino and Fagan integrated into the menswear brand is the NFC (Near Field Communication) technology in their garments, allowing the capability to attach memories and data to your garments.

“Many guys get married in a black suit. Imagine if you could reference that or your kids could reference that and say, ‘This was my dad’s wedding suit.’ That adds a deeper value to the product beyond just being a piece of fast fashion.”

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“This is our NFC technology. The purpose is to infuse the DNA of the wearer into the garments. For example, if you have a favourite hoodie, it’s often because of the memories attached to it. The NFC chips allow you to attach those memories to the garment digitally, making it more than just a piece of clothing.”

On a consumer level, the integration of NFC technology adds real depth and sentimentality to the Theodore garments, but on a commercial level, the NFC chips also hold data about the product owner. You can reorder your size, see the supply chain history, product details, and even the origin of the product—adding transparency to the garment’s value and sustainability.

“The genesis of the NFC technology is rooted in sustainability. We wanted to be the antithesis of fast fashion. True sustainability for us is how long a product stays with the consumer and how it passes down generationally.”

Challenging Cultural Norms

There were many serendipitous moments in my meetings with Tim as I delved deeper into the story of the burgeoning startup. He tells me that the Theodore moniker was chosen because that was the title his parents originally intended to name him, to which I revealed that my second son’s name is also Theodore.

Both of us grew up in immigrant households in Sydney with Filipino ancestry; so our suit fittings were littered with shared experiences of the delicate balance between two worlds. On one hand, there is a deep desire to honour and uphold the rich heritage and cultural traditions, while on the other hand, there’s the challenge of navigating and succeeding in Western society.

Tim and I found a unique commonality in our chosen career paths too, both of which are not typically seen in Filipino culture. Traditionally, Filipinos are often associated with careers in fields such as healthcare, education, and hospitality—professions that emphasise service and care. However, both Tim and I have ventured into less conventional paths: Tim in the realm of fashion and entrepreneurship, and myself in media and digital content creation. Asking Tim about where that entrepreneurial spirit comes from, he attributes it to two main areas: his parents and his experiences.

“My parents instilled values in me daily, which paid dividends later in life. My mum was my greatest cheerleader but also my toughest critic, balancing encouragement with constructive criticism.”

“It’s a cliché, but my parents were a pillar of support. They always believed in me, even when I wasn’t succeeding at university. They knew I was built for something great. The foundation was always there. My mum would say, ‘This is what I see in your life. This is the man you are, and this is the man you will be.’ That played a part in building my confidence and determination. You need that confidence and determination to pursue this path.”

“That foundation, combined with my experiences in New York, reinforced my entrepreneurial spirit. Living in a city where I knew no one and building a career there gave me the confirmation I needed to take risks.”

Theodore and Beyond

Ambitious by nature, Tim’s next step involves launching a women’s wear brand that adopts the same technology, but he understands that women’s wear is a whole other behemoth market. In essence, the common pain points in custom tailoring for women are still there, and they recognise the opportunity to provide the technology to solve that.

“We want to be a billion-dollar company. I don’t know how else to simplify it. Everyone wants to say that, but the question is how good is the plan and strategy to get there? Is the market big enough to make that a possibility? Probably.”

“In the fashion industry, we’ve used Theodore as an example: in two and a half years, we’ve made 7.3 million. We’re on some sort of a good path. It’s still small in comparison to a lot of other businesses, but I still think it’s a good indication that we’re doing something right.”

Tailoring Lasting Legacy

Almost two months after our initial meeting and measurement appointment, Tim and I catch up over a coffee at Humble Bakery in Surry Hills. He hands me the commissioned made-to-measure Theodore piece that he designed for me, and I am floored at how he’s absolutely hit a bullseye in terms of creating a fit that perfectly complements my body shape.

The fabric is a high-quality stretch wool, and the design is a slightly edgy double-breasted jacket with wide-legged pants—exactly what we both imagined in our initial meeting. The inside is a work of art in itself, lined with a stunning and intricately detailed green fabric that adds an unexpected but exquisite touch. If you look closely, you’ll find subtle monograms hidden inside the jacket and above the pleated pants, adding that extra depth and storytelling to the garment.

Now, when someone asks me about the most valuable garments in my wardrobe, I’ll have a rich story to tell. And if all goes well, it’ll be a piece I can one day pass down to my own Theodore.