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Smith Street losing the thread of Tony the Tailor

TIME may have stood still for the past 35 years in an unassuming tailor shop in Fitzroy, but Tony Apidopoulos certainly hasn't.

TIME may have stood still for the past 35 years in an unassuming tailor shop in Fitzroy, but Tony Apidopoulos certainly hasn't.

While the retail landscape of Smith Street has ebbed and flowed around him, Tony the Tailor has been at his old-fashioned machines for years, precision-making thousands of Victoria Police uniforms and sewing for everyone from housewives to executives.

Next month, after decades in the trade, the tailor will create his last stitch in time when he retires, aged 71.

The farewell sign has been hung out, the remaining reels of cotton sold and Mr Apidopoulos's shop, barely changed from the 1970s, will be handed to new owners.

Daughter Angela Pantazakos said it might be time for the emotions to start flowing.

"It really is the end of an era . . . he's one of the icons here on Smith Street," she said.

Mr Apidopoulos was born in Greece in 1940 and his father died early, leaving his mother with four children and a young relative to raise on her own.

Her son, Tony, decided to take on a tailoring apprenticeship at the age of 17.

"He came from such a poor background that he wanted to be able to clothe his family," Mrs Pantazakos said.

"He loved the suits, the whole tailoring business, making something from nothing and making it beautiful."

At 20, Tony and his mother emigrated to Australia.

The young man, who didn't speak English, found tailoring work in a factory for several years before moving on to Berensen Tailors, where he first learned to make police uniforms.

In 1976, he decided to go it alone, starting Tony the Tailor at 119 Smith Street, before moving to his current shop at No. 313.

His wife, Christine, has been heavily involved all the way along. "I come here to this shop in [May] 1979 and in August 1979 I start the police uniforms and the motorbike breeches," Mr Apidopoulos said.

He is one of a small handful to still make the uniforms. Thousands of police have come through the store for their fittings, from constables all the way up to deputy commissioners. "Can't remember, can't count it," he laughs when asked how many uniforms he's made.

Working with police is undoubtedly his favourite part "because I like the job . . . they respect you, they like you".

Mr Apidopoulos's retirement comes as Victoria Police prepares for its first major uniform overhaul in 30 years. Darker, New York-style uniforms are set to be introduced next August.

Mrs Pantazakos said her father takes great pride and satisfaction in his business.

But after so many years of needle and thread, Mr Apidopoulos is looking forward to travelling and spending more time with his family.

"I spent my whole life here, walking up and down," he said, looking around without a hint of regret.

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