Tom Adam Vitolins on imbuing the concept of family into every aspect of his fashion brand
“I feel that there has always been this warmth and openness in my family that I want our customers to feel as well,” he explains.
- Ruby Boddington
- 18 August 2021
Going into business with your family can be risky. If it goes badly, there’s a lot on the line. But the qualities that make a good business relationship – honesty, reliability and trust – are the same qualities that often be found in your family members, so for Tom Adam Vitolins the decision was easy. In 2015, he founded Tom Àdam, a sustainable unisex pyjama and men’s underwear brand based between Berlin and Paris, aiming to embody the comfort a family can bring through both the brand’s garments and its visual output.
Alongside his family, France and Latvia are big inspirations for the brand. The first is because Tom spent a while living in Paris and has “always been in love with the culture, the music and the city itself, and the Parisian Savoir-Vivre is where a lot of inspiration for the brand came from.” In fact, he sees Tom Àdam as a bit like an old French bakery where “the owners are refining their craft generation after generation, a place where they know each and every person who shops there by their first name.” Tom is Latvian and so his inspirations also stem directly from his formative years and the culture he experienced at an early age. “Even though I don’t live in Latvia anymore, it obviously plays a major part in the way things are run at Tom Àdam. First of all, my family and our production is there, and secondly, my childhood and youth spent so close to nature has made me extremely aware of how much our environment should be cherished and protected,” he explains. Bringing his personal experiences and using the brand to express those stories subtly through clothing is one of the things Tom loves most about running Tom Àdam.
In turn, there’s a personable touch to everything Tom Àdam puts out. When Tom first had the idea to launch an underwear and pyjama brand, he knew the world didn’t really need another underwear and pyjama brand so he spent two years thinking about what he could offer. In that time, he realised he “wanted to tell a personal story, which made me think, ‘how can a brand be more personal?’” For example, by designing a card for each of its customers with their name on it and a handwritten note. The decision to have his family model in every photoshoot was also born from this same desire, and everything is shot by either himself or his friends (the most recent, featured in this article is by Aiga Ozolina). “I feel that there has always been this warmth and openness in my family that I want our customers to feel as well,” he explains. “Either in the shape of our garments or in the way we interact with one another.”
This thread continues through to the visual identity of the brand. For example, the typeface is Lyon from Commercial Type which while suiting the aesthetics of Tom Àdam was also chosen because the type foundry’s co-founder Paul Barnes had a long-time collaboration with Peter Saville, a designer Tom is particularly fond of. “I think that’s how it all connects, by researching and digging deeper you establish certain connections, which then come back as an inspirational boomerang,” he says. In this way, everything about Tom Àdam is cyclical and self-referential. The more you know, the more each decision begins to make even more sense.
Most recently, the brand put out its first film titled Family. It’s a Wes Anderson-esque affair, nodding to the famed director’s love of pastel hues, grainy textures and symmetrical yet odd scenes. Creating the film saw Tom dabble with the medium for the first time and so, he admits, it took several hours to simply figure out how to operate the camera. Many of the props were hand-painted by his mum, which, combined with Tom’s unaffected approach to filming, means Family has “all this rawness and imperfection,” a style that pervades all of the brand’s photography. “When it comes down to the photography, I was thinking, how would it be if we bring the usual behind-the-scenes of fashion shoots to the forefront of the brand,” he says. It’s always more about capturing a feeling and the right composition, rather than “fine-tuning different sophisticated camera settings”.
When asked what working with his family so closely is like, Tom explains that just launching the brand feels like a tribute to all of the people who made him: “My dad for example, as a student made backpacks from military parachutes and my mum worked in a clothing atelier and is the one who hand-knits all the sweaters that we offer. My granddad was a graphic designer, so somehow all the things they have been doing in the past, have been brought together, and there has always been this creative twist in the family.” And while they of course run into moments of tension, on the whole, each member of the family has found their role “so at the end of the day we all complement each other really well… We know each other inside-out in the family, so that can be very liberating either to laugh or let some tension out.”
GalleryTom Àdam (Copyright © Tom Àdam/Aiga Ozolina, 2021)
Tom Àdam (Copyright © Tom Àdam/Aiga Ozolina, 2021)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.