Touko Laaksonen aka ‘Tom of Finland’ is one of the most influential and celebrated figures of twentieth century gay culture. Over the course of four decades, he produced some 3500 illustrations, mostly featuring men with exaggerated primary and secondary sex traits, wearing tight or partially removed clothing.
Now we are happy to intorduce Joakim Andreasson, who has been spearheading licensing for Tom of Finland Foundation since 2014. Below here you can read our exclusive interview with him about Tom of Finland store, and you will find an exclsuive interview with Terry Miller, the offical Tom’s Man too.
Interview with Joakim Andreasson
The Tom of Finland Store launched in February 2017 as a platform to gather all official Tom of Finland products in one place and that position the brand as one that encompasses progressive values, fine art and personal expression
Over the past few years, Tom of Finland Foundation, under my direction, has been more active with licensing than ever, across categories and in different regions. However, we quickly identified a glitch in distribution between territories and markets, and TOFS helps solve that by centralizing our offerings.
We began working on it in mid 2016 and launched in February 2017.
Do you remember what was your first impression when you bumped into Tom of Finland artworks?
I first came up-close and personal with Tom’s work in Paris when I bought one of the Taschen book in the gay book store in Marais. I was thereafter captivated – And Tom has been part of my life since. I never imagined that I would end up working with Tom’s art in this capacity – But it certainly has been a sexy ride…
How many items do you feature in the shop?
About 500 products.
Do you have favorite pieces of clothes/accessories?
I am really proud of the clothing collection we developed together with artist duo assume vivid astro focus for Print All Over Me, where we gave avaf access to the Tom of Finland’s archive and never-before free reign to crop, manipulate and morph his body of work with their visual language. I believe this is the first time contemporary artists have been given access to an artist estate of this stature and the result is mind blowing to say the least. The collaboration really manifests Tom of Finland Foundation’s mission to nurture contemporary art and popular culture through Tom’s magic.
You feature different designer’s works in the shop too. Do you have a dream collaborator?
We include art products by other gay artist, that to date include assume vivid astro focus, Bruce LaBruce and Bjarne Melgaard. In terms of collaborations, the partnerships happen quite organically – And I do for sure have some dream projects, but if I mention them I think it will add bad luck and they may never come to fruition… That said, I would love to break the mold and do a baby stroller one day! Would be cool.
Do you have any expectations about the upcoming Tom of Finland movie?
It is a very fine movie – I have seen it a few times and have been involved throughout the making if it. Each time I see it I get touched by the bigger picture of Tom’s influence. The positive message of what he accomplished is what keeps us going, and keeps us creative in coming up with new avenues to communicate his vast body of work.
Tom’s artworks is a message of tolerance and sexual freedom. Looks like some parts of U.S.A. have a different point of view of that. What do you think generally where all this will leads U.S.A.?
The markets for Tom of Finland have pretty much opened in tandem with advances in human rights and equality. We hope that our work of embedding TOM further in popular culture, has some kind of effect in terms of opening people’s eyes and eliminating the stigma of gay sex. In some part of the U.S.A. it will take a bit longer, but any kind of activism through art is one that can’t be censored nor silenced.
About Tom of Finland – Touko Valio Laaksonen (8 May 1920 – 7 November 1991)
Laaksonen was born and raised by a middle-class family in Kaarina, a town in southwestern Finalnd, near the city of Turku. Both of his parents were schoolteachers at the grammar school that served Kaarina. He went to school in Turku and in 1939, at the age of 19, he moved to Helsinki to study advertising. The country became embroiled in the Winter War with the USSR, and then became formally involved in World War II, and he was conscripted in February 1940 into the Finnish Army. He served as an anti-aircraft officer, holding the rank of second lieutenant. He later attributed his fetishistic interest in uniformed men to encounters with men in army uniform, especially soldiers of the German Wermacht serving in Finland at that time. In 1956 Laaksonen submitted drawings to the influential American magazine Physique Pictorial, which premiered the images in the 1957 Spring issue under the pseudonym Tom, as it resembled his given name Touko. In the Winter issue later that year, editor Bob Mizer coined the credit Tom of Finland. Laaksonen’s style and content in the late 1950s and early 1960s was partly influenced by the U.S. censorship codes that restricted depiction of “overt homosexual acts”. By the mid-1970s he was also emphasizing a photorealism style making aspects of the drawings appear more photographic. Many of his drawings are based on photographs, but none are exact reproductions of them. In 1979, Laaksonen with businessman and friend Durk Dehner co-founded the Tom of Finland Company, and in 1984 established the Tom of Finland Foundation dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting homoerotic artwork. Laaksonen was diagnosed with emphysema in 1988. Eventually the disease and medication caused his hands to tremble, leading him to switch mediums from pencil to pastels. He died in 1991 due to an emphysema-induced stroke. Read more…
Interview with Terry Miller
How did you became and ambassador for Tom of Finland?
It sounds strange, but they kind of asked me out of the blue. I accepted, of course, immediately, and I was presented to the Foundation to look at and agree upon. They accented, and here I am. I couldn’t be happier! Tom of Finland’s “Hitchhiker” has been my Instagram avatar since the day I joined. His leather men are the wallpaper on my iphone. My iPhone case was Tom… It was really destiny on my end.
What is your ’job’ to do as an ambassador?
I really am out there to represent the brand in a physical manifestation. I try to present myself as the confident and sexually domineering guy that Tom made come to life so vividly… and I love it! I do tend to go to many of the domestic leather events, and a few choice international events as well. The reaction has been incredible and gratifying. It’s totally fucking cool for guys to point at me and say, “You’re Tom of Finland!” I’m also in front of the camera doing a lot of product and catalog shots to give you an idea of how to wear some of the gear with the right amount of confidence and balls.
Can you name a few highlight during this period with Tom?
Visiting the Foundation house and getting to run around it all day and just go where we wanted and explore was incredible. Being able to go to Tom’s room, sit at his desk, hands on the last drawing he was working on at the time. It was like the Holy of Holies for kinky gay men. I was in awe. I will never forget getting the chance to lay in his bed and just close my eyes and think, “What was he dreaming of…?” Also, it’s not easy traveling with my husband, Dan Savage sometimes. He is famous and somewhat controversial. So people are always coming up to him to say hi, or argue. You’ll usually find me walking away and ignoring the scene altogether. But recently at Folsom Europe in Berlin the tables were turned. Lots of men came up to say hi and get photos with me, and Dan was barely noticed, left in peace. He was in heaven.
In your private life are you the same party-social media guy too or you have a homeboy side too?
My roll for years has been as a stay-at-home father to our son. I was very private, and in that roll, for those years, if you Googled me, you’d find 2 pics total. As he transitioned to an independent teen I found myself with more time to do the stuff I’d missed over the past 15 years. I had been throwing monthly parties for awhile, and was a regular at kink and fetish events, but now I have a lot more time to dedicate to making male kink something sexy and positive. I’m making up for lost time! 😉
How your ideal men looks like? Would you date with a Tom of Finland type?
I’d say I have two types. I play the Daddy role in my private life and have a few dedicated boys who really love a big dominate man. I love being “Daddy”. But just like any gay man, if Kake walked in the room, I’m sure I’d be on my knees in a heartbeat. So, yeah, I’d deal with a muscle stud too.
We also asked Terry to name his favorite things…
City: Vienna Fragrance: Frances Malle EDP: Geranium Pour Homme (daily) Tom of Finland by Etat Libre D’Orange (Fetish night) Toy: Anything Estim. And tit clamps. Underwear: comfortable briefs Holiday Destination: Banff, Alberta Song: Trio at the end of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss Accessory: My custom Cockwings ring by Jonathan Jewelry Smell: Leather Food: German/Austrian Pornstar: Levi Karter
Photos by: Josh Paul Thomas www.thestudiohaus.com