by Chiara Spennato
‘tom àdam’ is a sustainable men’s underwear, swimwear and hand-knit sweater brand founded in Paris in 2015. It’s a father and son family business. The brand is committed to a sustainable production process, using the finest fabrics and recycled plastic. The tom àdam garments have a indie minimalistic aesthetic with refined silhouettes, and they’re currently stocked in stores throughout Riga, London, Basel and Amsterdam. Let’s meet Tom Àdam Vitolins, the creative director of the brand.
When and why did you come up with this amazing idea of a socially responsible and conscious brand?
At the time, I was on a trip to Japan with my family and I was absolutely flabbergasted by the Japanese aesthetics and attention to detail. I walked into an eight-story men’s fashion department store and felt like a little kid in Disneyland, but there was nothing that would align with my taste when it comes to underwear. You could see only big brands flaunted with massive logos on the underwear’s elastics and produced in either Cambodia or Vietnam. As I have a background in graphic design, in that moment I decided that was what I’d do – launch my own brand. From the way I was raised and the different influences that’ve surrounded me, the only way I envisioned the making of the brand was in a socially responsible and conscious way, as we’re responsible for what we do.
More specifically, why’d you choose to make men’s underwear?
I really believe it’s better to focus on one specific thing and get to the essence of it. Once you’ve mastered one product and built your self-confidence, you can transfer the lessons you’ve learned. One of the core values of the brand has always been to create things that I want to wear myself and would have in my wardrobe. Underwear was definitely a really good starting point. When it comes to clothing, my choices are kind of conservative, so it’s not that important to create massive amounts of colours and cuts. What’s important is to keep it simple and not add to the over-consumption.
The brand is based between Paris and Berlin, but I saw that you’re producing everything in Latvia, the country where you’re from. Can you explain this choice?
It all came together in a very natural way. There’s an on-going love story between Paris and I. My parents still live in Latvia and there are old traditions when it comes to underwear production. It’s allowed me to kill two birds with a stone, spending time with my family while overseeing production. These days I’m mainly in Berlin, which gives me great life-work balance, because of the more relaxed approach to life. Anyhow, I always feel the best when I’m on the move. Having the ability to be between both cities allows me the opportunity of more creative freedom and a broader range of inspiration.
Where do you find inspiration?
In anything I see or experience. Jean Paul Sartre wrote, in his book ‘Being and Nothingness’, something along the lines of ‘if you walk into a café and you’re looking for a friend, then you scan over the room and everything else besides that friend becomes the negative space. If your friend is not there, you just walk outside of the café and the question is how much of the remaining space have you been conscious of?’. It’s a daily task to find inspiration in places where I usually wouldn’t look for it, or wouldn’t anticipate to find it there. I believe the only limitation we have is our imagination, and we shouldn’t let our imagination get too lazy.
Father and son, navigating two different generations and, maybe, two different points of view…sometimes, do you find it difficult to work together?
Absolutely, yes. It took time for both of us to put our egos aside and understand that we’re working towards the same goal. It’s not about who can outperform the other, as we’re both very competitive, but how we can come together and help each other with our knowledge and point of view. We don’t live in the same country, and that helps to create a healthy distance. So when we meet, there’s not so much tension between us. Although, a quick game of table tennis can change it very quickly: when the competition kicks in and the tables suddenly turn, all the wiseness is gone.
I can see from your website and Instagram profile that both of you are in perfect shape. What does beauty mean to you, and how would you define this concept?
Benjamin’s (Benjamin is Tom Àdam Vitolins’ dog, E.D.) endurance and willingness to chase us from the back is what keeps us in good shape. ‘Wabi-Sabi’ is a Japanese word standing for a mindset centered on imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness. As human beings are imperfect, that’s where beauty lays for me. If you’re true to yourself, your beauty will show through.
’tom àdam’ is about making a long-term investment in feeling good. What’re the things that make you feel good? Do you have a favourite place, food or spot to watch the sunset?
With my head high and my hips swinging loose to music, dancing instantly distresses me and puts me in a positive mood. Combining the things mentioned above, one of my favourite spots to read while watching the sunset in Berlin is Tempelhofer Feld. Having a book in my hands, being clumsy and spilling fresh mango juice over my trousers, as the sun slowly sets down. It’s one of my favourite evening activities.
What’re your plans and dreams for the future of ‘tom àdam’?
It’s good to think about yourself, but it’s even more important to keep in mind how you can impact others. Therefore, we’ll keep working on being as mindful as possible and improve sustainability in every aspect of the business, as it’s a never-ending process. Bringing back the meaning of clothes, slowing down consumption by creating things that are meant to last, and telling stories of people who stand behind creating conscious and beautiful things.
Credits: Photo by Chris Abatzis