Glory Hole blog

Sami Vulli on Tolerance and Bravery Through Textiles

Tom of Finland’s imagery is so iconic, it transcends the confines of wall art. The brawny black and whites images look good on anything (I’ve got a tattoo on my right arm). If you take a trip to TOM House, you’ll see the images everywhere— they instantly transform a space, whether printed on clothes, flatware, or in Finlayson’s case, textiles.

Finlayson is the oldest textile brand in Finland and all of Scandinavia, and has been collaborating with Tom of Finland Foundation since 2014. The classic label has a huge diversity of products, but the Tom of Finland collaboration is definitely one of their most evocative collections. For modern Finland, Tom has become a part of the culture. Four years after their first collaboration and the lines are still going strong. Finlayson just released a new Street Style collection of Tom textiles, and already have a new collection to be released in fall 2019. The bold new line boasts colorful renditions of Finnish street art and the iconic imagery of our guy, Tom. I had the chance to talk with the Creative Director about the brand and new line.

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What makes Finlayson products unique?

Finlayson is known as a pioneer of textile manufacturing in Finland (also in the whole Scandinavia). It has designed and manufactured quality interior textiles since 1820. Finlayson’s products are high-quality and designed here in Finland.

What is your connection to Tom of Finland? How did you decide to use Tom of Finland images in your textiles?

As an art fan and as a gay man I was naturally familiar with Tom’s work before I first had the opportunity to work with the legendary drawings. I have always had a huge respect for Touko Laaksonen’s art. In 2014 Finlayson was acquired by three visionary new owners who breathed new life into the company. It was a perfect time to do something ballsy and new, and so Finlayson responded enthusiastically when Tom of Finland Foundation proposed a line of home goods. I was chosen to take the lead with the upcoming collections. Lucky me!

Does being a Finish brand make your more partial to Tom’s work?

I think Finns have a deeper understanding of Touko’s art. I guess we understand his references and nuances easier because we’re Finns.



Finlayson was established in 1820. How has the company evolved over that time? And how do your Tom of Finland collaborations fit into that evolution?

Finlayson has a long history, almost 200 years! A lot can happen in 200 years. Until the 1830s Finlayson was just a small machine shop. After being acquired by new, open-minded and daring owners the company quickly grew to be the largest in the Nordics. Well, that was until globalization took its toll on it. In 2014, with new owners came a new period of growth for Finlayson. The launch of the Tom of Finland collection was the trigger for this upturn – it shook dust off the company. Now the circle has closed and Finlayson is once again one of Finland’s most beloved brand thanks to the same recipe for success used in the 19th century: tolerance and bravery.

What is the significance of bringing Tom of Finland imagery into the home?

It’s a different way to show your own personal style when decorating your home. Those pictures are way too beautiful to hide so why not show them everybody.

When I first came to TOM House, I was enamored with the Tom of Finland textiles, I remember the bedding of your first collection in particular— What inspired you to choose the images you used?

I wanted the first Tom of Finland items to look recognizable and highlight the phenomenal talent of Touko Laaksonen’s way of drawing extremely detailed human figures. I browsed hundreds of pictures and chose a set of drawings that were beautiful but not too raunchy. I remember having difficulty finding pictures with men wearing at least something on them.

How do you feel that Tom of Finland bedding, towels, and other textiles can change a space? Do you have any recommendations on how to style a room with your textiles? At TOM House, it’s Finlayson everything, do you think the designs work better in totality, or as accents?

There is no one right way to decorate a home. Decorate as you wish but always you decorate for yourself. Let your persona show! Tom of Finland products work perfectly both as accents and as a full theme for your home. Cushions on the sofa, or towels in the bathroom can make a strong statement. Ask some friends over and cook something wearing a Finlayson x Tom of Finland apron and I bet someone will start a conversation about it.

The new collection feels much more punk than the original more classic design. What was the inspiration behind the change? How did you choose images based on this new look?

As the previous collections were minimalistic it was a time to do something different. I decided to add more color and attitude to the Street Style collection. It’s also a homage to the club scene in Helsinki. The graffiti Images on the back are manipulated photos of a wall of the men’s room at a club. The Street Style collection is the first in, what will now be, annual Tom of Finland collections. To me the men on the designs embody serious bad ass attitude and total laid-back coolness. I particularly like the image with two guys together. Those guys are rocking it!

The colors of the new collection are so fun and vibrant! How did you decide on that scheme versus the original black and white?

I played a lot with the colors and variations. I had to find a balance between old and modern, monochrome and multicolor elements.

Do you have a favorite product or image?

I really like designs from the upcoming collection, Fall 2018, but I will not spoil the surprise for you! I’m also very fond of the intensely green Street Style products.

You have a huge diversity of products! What is it like having a Tom of Finland collection in the mix? How have people responded to it?

I know! As Finlayson is still the most popular manufacturer in Finland we must have “something for everybody”. At first some suspicious people said that introducing such a collection is a huge mistake and Finlayson’s reputation will be spoiled forever. Some of our customers were also a bit shocked because of this daring collaboration. The first Tom of Finland collection was, however, a success and today people see the products as an essential and natural part of our range. In 2018, Tom and his messages are more topical than ever, advocating human rights, sexual freedom and respect.

Have you started planning the next Tom of Finland collaboration yet?

I have designed a whole new collection for 2018 (to be released Fall 2018). It has a totally new theme and vibe. I promise you it will be fun, sexy and totally awesome!

Jamison Karon is the author of How to Be a Faggot, and creator of the series and short film Sorry You're Sad. He is a screenwriting fellow at the American Film Institute.

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