I was working and living in New York City and determined to start a polo shirt company. It wasn’t just about polo shirts though. I’m actually a bit lazy by nature and I wanted to create something that made my life and wardrobe easier. More versatile. More comfortable. And made me a little more confident. I wanted the same for whoever put on a Tillinger polo shirt. I wanted them to look good, feel good, and play good. h/t Deion Sanders
It all started when I was interning in NYC during a summer in between college semesters. I worked at a real estate firm in midtown and I had to wear slacks and a long sleeve button down shirt every day. And as you’re probably aware, east coast summers get a little steamy.
But on “Casual Fridays”, I was permitted to wear collared shirts with short sleeves. I quietly declared every Friday… Polo Shirt Friday. The only drawback was I felt uncomfortable wearing my favorite ones: my golf polos. They were soft and breathable, and made of technical fabric that’s lightweight, wicks moisture, and stretches in every direction.
I would have loved to have worn them. But they were plastered with logos, had boxy fits, and quite frankly, were pretty ugly.
I was inspired to create a polo shirt that used performance materials, but designed in a way that allowed for versatility. I figured if you could wear the shirt at work, playing golf, or on a Friday night out, then it could work.
There was only one slight issue…I didn’t know anything about how to make a shirt. Where do I find the materials: fabric, buttons, thread? What kind of fit do I want? What do I look for in stitch quality? Where do I get my shirts made? How much should it cost? Who can I trust to help? How can I afford to do this? Am I crazy? A million other questions raced through my mind.
Fortunately, I actually figured out how to make a polo shirt. The secret recipe? A little naivety, plus determination with a touch of luck.
A friend introduced me to a friend, who then introduced me to another friend. This person knew of a mill in Canada that had low fabric minimums. When I was on my lunch break at work, I walked up and down streets in the Garment District finding buttons, prints, pattern makers, graders and markers, and fabric cutting rooms. I did my best to explain what I wanted to my very talented, Mandarin-speaking sewer, Simon.
Because I barely had enough money for production, there was nothing left to spend on advertising. I decided to share all of my production adventures on Instagram.
I made the initial batch of shirts and sold out of those pretty quickly. I rinsed and repeated. I reiterated the fit over 30 times. As production increased, I moved factories three times. I had money stolen from me by my second factory in South America. I took a fall but I got back up. I learned how to negotiate. Tillinger was featured in Golf Digest, Golfweek, and in Golf Magazine. I’ve shipped my shirts all over the world. I’ve been invited to sell Tillinger shirts at prestigious country clubs. I’ve met some amazing men and women who have become advisors, partners, and even good friends. I’ve convinced my dad and brother to help me package and ship out shirts while I was busy working in the city all day. I’ve learned that running a business is a lot different than simply designing a polo shirt.
I’ve learned to be stubborn on vision, but fluid on how to get there.
And, up until late 2019 I was doing all of this while still working another full time job. I’ve learned that in order for Tillinger to get to where it needs to be, I needed to devote my all.
So I quit my job, figured out how to purchase health insurance off the Internet, and went all in.
Thank you all who believe in Tillinger. My gratitude to those who have purchased once. Who have purchased twice. Who have purchased several times. Thank you to those who have said they won’t put on another polo shirt after trying Tillinger. Thanks to those who have messaged me saying they finally found their perfect fit.
I hope I was able to make your life a little easier when you woke up and had to decide what shirt to wear today.
Thank you all,