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[Artist Interview] Thaddaeus Timothy Jr | Bowties for a Cause

Thaddaeus Timothy is a rare kind of gentleman that you’ll hopefully meet more than once in your lifetime. He has all of the qualities one would be admired of, as he is quirky, fun-loving, hard-working and compassionate. It’s often rare that chance encounters with a person of this caliber would be found in just any place, which makes sense that I first crossed paths with Thaddaeus in the most magical place of all; the Sherwood Forest in Rothbury, Michigan.

It was there that, in the spontaneous feel-good atmosphere of the festival, that my group and his hooked up for a night to engage in Electric Forest shenanigans. We were foreigners from Texas, and they were from New York. If it hadn’t been for our awesome tastes in music, we would have never met; one of the many reasons I love the festival world. Decked head to toe in a brightly colored button-up and a holographic kitten/puppy rockin’ fannypack, I was caught off guard when he explained that he made the designs himself. Explaining that this was more of his ‘festie gear’, he went on to tell me what he did outside of getting down to funky beats and traveling to festivals – he designs bow ties for young boys in the Brooklyn area, and through that, raises money to build skateboards for underprivileged children in the NY public school system!

My awesome horse/wolf holographic tee. TTJR.

Nearing the end of our awesome weekend, Thaddaeus and his wonderful girlfriend, Katie, gifted me with one of his holographic designs on a t-shirt, something that made me feel good, excited and baffled all at once. I pull it out whenever I want to make a funky statement, and it’s officially made itself apart of my festival wardrobe. Although our next reunion isn’t until this year’s Electric Forest, we’ve remained in touch, and I was more than happy to take an opportunity to ask more in depth about the mission of TTJR, and how it all began.

CYM: THADDAEUS! How are ya? We met back at Electric Forest, I’m pretty sure our two groups were the only ones who somehow finagled our ways onstage to dance at Tripolee. Since then I’ve followed the TTJR line and you’ve had a string of successes. I’m sure your life has been much busier since then.

Thaddaeus: Ahhhh, Electric Forest, music to my ears. The one thing I look forward to all year that’s not my birthday! Such a magical place. Post Forest, I hung out at FireFly and Catskill Chill, however my time was limited as I was producing garments for two separate fashion shows for Fall 2013 Fashion Week. The first was in Time Square for EcoFest, and it showcased upcycled boys and menswear. Second was also a fashion show supporting sustainable fashion that took place in the Tesla Motors showroom in NY. I premiered shirts made from vintage bedsheets starring characters ranging from Alf to Darth Vader, as well bowties, headbands, and skateboards.

Over the summer, I graduated from Design Entrepreneurs NYC, one of Bloomberg’s newest fashion initiatives. 35 NYC based designers were selected as promising designers in their field to participate in the “mini MBA’’ in Fashion Design. Classes were taught at F.I.T. by the industry’s top professionals, and sponsored by GIII apparel. Currently I’m working with mentors on a line of men’s accessories that include bow ties, suspenders, and vests to present to department stores in the near future. I’m also traveling to meet clients in San Francisco and New York on an as needed basis.

In October, I moved some of the production from Brooklyn to my hometown in Grand Rapids, MI. My three brothers and I took over a 60,000 sqft warehouse that was previously a trucking terminal. It is my dream to bring the fashion industry to Michigan.

My vision is to have an indoor longboard/skatepark open to the public year round, all sponsored by the clothing. I’d also like to offer free sewing, screen printing, computer, and other art intensives to the public. I just started talking with Kendall College in Grand Rapids, MI about getting involved in their Fashion Design Program and hopefully recruiting some students for an internship program.

CYM: Your accomplishments are like a whirlwind! That’s really awesome. That leads me to ask exactly how everything with TTJR began in the first place. 

Thaddaeus: It began in my Brooklyn apartment, in 2012 when I realized a niche in boy’s clothing and accessories. After a few laps around a childrens’ trade show it was true, there was nothing for boys. It began with making a bow tie for my nephew. The first dozen sold to a boutique in Brooklyn, and were featured in a Yahoo article who called them “The Coolest Way to Dress Up Your Baby”. Prior to the start of my business I’ve designed my own clothing for the past 13 yrs, starting Freshman year of high school. In 2009  I studied pattern making and tailoring at F.I.T and  began creating my own garments from scratch.

CYM: You’re primarily based between Michigan and NY; is there a major difference in the response you get from TTJR in the two cities?

Thaddaeus: At the moment I’m actually tri-coastal, between San Francisco, Michigan, and New York. It keeps me balanced. New York feeds me a new energy I can’t get anywhere else. Michigan is pure and simple. Life is easy. Fashion is barely a concept to most. California is where my heart will always lie. I’m free like New York, yet Pure like Michigan. The response has been positive no matter where I sell them, everyone loves a funky bow tie!

CYM: You’ve tried your hand at a lot of things on the designing spectrum, between your bowties and festival gear. What all have you designed?

Thaddaeus: I began making Doctor and nurse scrubs with vintage sheet pockets, because of the huge response from the sheet shirts. Additional accessories include earrings, hats, scarves, headbands, bow ties, handbags, backpacks, fannypacks, tool belts, growler bags, and visors.

CYM: Which came first, making the festival gear [funky Jesus holograms that are shaped as magic mushrooms, hologram headbands and crazy fanny packs] or children attire?

Thaddaeus: Clothing for myself always came first. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of dressing up in a suit and tie. I’d rather wear a chicken suit. However, sometimes it’s just not appropriate. People have always complimented my style, but it wasn’t until I started making sheet shirts that they started lining up requesting custom clothing.

CYM: What’s your favorite part about designing?

Thaddaeus: Empowering people to express themselves. Making others think, getting reactions, and most of all making people smile. The thing I like most about designing clothing is it has no bounds, and you can never be wrong.

CYM: Have you ever vended at a festival? If so, which ones and which do you want to hit? Which also leads me to ask, is your ‘festival gear’ more of a fun project that you don’t aim to sell, or is it available on your site as well?

Thaddaeus: FireFly last summer was my first chance to sell at a festival. It became an opportunity last minute, and I actually had to cancel my long anticipated EDC Vegas weekend to do it. However, it was a great learning experience and I had an amazing weekend selling gear and blowing minds in Delaware! My current goal is to produce a line of accessories to be expanded into Menswear for a department store. I need to start at the top and make a name for myself there. Then I will be able to make all the clothes I want! You can do anything you want after that! Clothing and accessories are all found on my website, which is continuously growing to meet clients needs.

CYM: When setting about to make one of your awesome bowties, what’s your process like? Do you see a design you’d like to put a spin on, and create from that?

Thaddaeus: By mastering the production process I know by looking at fabric what the bow tie will look like. Typically ties are made from wool or silk so I try to use anything else. What used to take thirty minutes now takes me five making samples quick to produce. I don’t get inspiration at what other designers are doing with their ties, but I do get satisfaction knowing that I make the coolest ones. Inspiration usually comes from the material I’m using and could be from a dress, blanket, or bouquet of flowers.

CYM: Every tie is handmade and the fabric is high quality, does that prove difficult to maintain since you’re independently run?

Thaddaeus: Yes and no, every garment is made by hand in our facility. This is more time consuming, but it insures that every product lives up to the TTJr standard of quality.

CYM: Best feel-good moment you’ve had with TTJR?

Thaddaeus: It’s hard to say because I feel like my entire career is one after another! It felt good when I sold my first run of ties. It felt great when I got accepted as one of New York’s emerging designers to the Mini MBA program. It was also a pleasure to have my first fashion show in Time Square, and to show a full line of Menswear during fashion week in Tesla Motors showroom! Topping them all off was connecting with my fashion mentor, who came and spoke to our DENYC class. Knowing that he believes I have potential is like being blessed by the Dalai Lama himself!

CYM: A percentage of each tie goes towards building longboards for children in the New York public school system, and you say you hope to have the first skatepark inside of a warehouse in Brooklyn, which will be open all year round. Tell me how you came up with the program, how it’s been received thus far and how we can get involved.

Thaddaeus: Longboarding started as an outlet for me in high school and after moving to New York it became my main mode of transportation. Skating became my lifestyle. I was fortunate enough to find my love for longboarding and passion for creating at a young age. Everyday I would see kids come home from school with nothing to do and no where to go, so they would end up fighting in the streets out of boredom. That’s where the idea for indoor skatepark came from. I want to have a clothing line that empowers people to make their own clothes, music, art, etc. Whatever their passion is, I want to give them a space to pursue it.

The idea is to figure out a way to give away one longboard/skateboard to a student for every bow tie sold. Because the production space in Grand Rapids is so large, I also have room to host an indoor skatepark. We are still in the planning stages, but we already have some great companies onboard for sponsorships including Bustin Boards and Longboards for Peace. Once we start finalizing the plans and get things rolling in Michigan, I want to expand out to every major city in the US starting with Brooklyn, my second home.

 CYM: Anything further you’d like to add?

Thaddaeus: If anyone knows Tony Hawk I’d like to talk with him, and even if you don’t, I want to talk to you too! All questions, comments, and concerns can be answered on my website, as well as any of my social medias. Thank you!

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