Commercial Art

Comme Des Garçons and Tom of Finland arrive in Chelsea

Now a couple of designers working in conjunction with the Tom of Finland foundation, intent on keeping the flame of Touko-Tom fashion alive, have opened their first retail store, diagonally across from the Sam Chinita restaurant, a metal roadside diner parked at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 19th Street.

The Tom of Finland store has huge floor-to-ceiling front windows, which are very reassuring when you're selling vaguely homoerotic merchandise that might intimidate potential customers. This way, they can look and see a perfectly nice collection of heavy denim and Lycra "Tom" fit jeans ("low rise, snug in the legs, boot cut") for $88, belts with massive metal buckles that say "Tom" ($67), ribbed Ts with horizontal laces meant to restrain bursting chests ($42), and other tough-love necessities. Fiendish Finnish fellows decorate T-shirts and march up the sides of baggy shorts; a classic leather motorcycle jacket has been individualized with a lining that's decorated with a drawing of two hunky Toms.

The merchandise fairly screams Pavilion! Botel! Sayville ferry! and indeed, some Tom items are available at Island Specialties, a boutique in the shop-deprived hamlet of Fire Island Pines. But Tom of Finland is ready to break out of its niche: "There's no such thing as heterosexual or homosexual clothes, after all," says Gary Robinson, one of the designers, and at least one behemoth department store agrees: Tom of Finland is for sale this season at the Los Angeles branch of Bloomingdale's. "It's in the Beverly Center, in West Hollywood. We think we'll do fine."

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To the Finland station: Tom takes on jeans. (photo: André Souroujon)

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