ELYSIAN FIELDS: Tom Àdam Vitolins, with Marlo Saalmink from Fucking Young!

"Show me a pillow and I will rest my head. Show me a pen and I shall write my name. Forgive me. Not for what I said. Forgive me. For what I could not."


By Marlo Saalmink


Tired of insta-gainers, false “influencer” prophets, torrential digital zoom-drones, and viral dystopian news feeds? Oh Yes. In need of some authentic distraction by means of unbridled enthused menswear chit-chat? Tom Àdam got you covered.


Frankly, it took some time for him to finally find his way into us. About as Fucking Young as they come, this guy is a true gunner. His ways differ from others, he ain’t no loudmouth tall story-teller or a printed re-run garb seller. Nope. Tom is a tennis-playing, book devouring, nocturnal ping-pong thief, turned impeccable tailor (or tinker if you will). Together with papa, mamma, grandma, and the family’s servient canine, he slowly built his own highly personal universe; crafting natty undies, sartorial PJ’s and crisp knitwear from the finest yarns he could find. Featuring here donning his own creations, we found this loveable modest gentleman fearlessly navigating the underbelly (forget Zola), of whatever remains of good olé romantic seedy Berlin. Let’s listen to what this punk Peter Pan has to say.



Marlo: Mājas. Welcome Tom, what kind of a boy were you?


Tom Adam Vitolins: Thank you for having me. Well, Tom was a curious boy: Loving, emotional, sensitive, and highly talkative. That order was constantly changing, though. One of my strongest childhood memories is of playing tennis. It was something I was deeply immersed in, not just by watching it, but by playing actively. On the weekends, we would occasionally play doubles, my parents, sister, and me. Related to this: I always remember this quote from the movie “A Good Year” where the main character Max, as a young child plays tennis against his granddad Henry, and he is absolutely furious when he loses the match.

Uncle Henry then says the following, “You’ll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is, uh… how much more enjoyable it is to win. It is inevitable to lose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it.” At the time, having the ambitions to be a professional tennis player and simultaneously struggling with my emotions on the court (being a sore loser) it really stayed in my mind. The highs of winning triggered joy and losing had the complete opposite effect. This was important for me to realize that both emotions should be properly balanced.





Marlo: Ante. In our Youth, many of us, have this sort of epiphany, a moment where it all clicks and you say: I will do things differently, I will follow this path and nothing will stop me… Did you?


Tom: For myself, this was an accumulation of different things. My parents always gave me a lot of freedom in my choices and I had to be the one who took responsibility for them. Marlo, paraphrasing our lovely conversations – I was Spassky and they were Fischer. I thought that I had it, but they were already two steps in front of me. I had space to try things out and if something went absolutely off-grid, my parents would be there for me. I grew up with lots of unconditional love from them, which allowed me to quickly shift directions, think – chasing tennis balls and sliding over a crisp clay court on a sunny day.


Marlo: Nihon. Before we dive into your work, by simply looking at the fabrics and understated feel, Japan springs to mind immediately. Surely you have been there and it must have inspired you?


Tom: From warm toilet seats to seeing Yukitsuri in Kanazawa (a technique used to protect trees from snow) and choosing restaurants by seeing plastic faux-food in the storefronts. It felt like stepping out of conventional reality. There were this simultaneous closeness and distance. The culture appears to me like an artichoke, whereby every layer tells a different story. At first, it is somewhat hard to relate to and you just feel like peeling off layer after layer and still not being close to the essence, which is something that makes it what it is. The discovery into the unknown. From an aesthetic point of view, it made me rediscover and appreciate minimalism and not only in a way of style or architectural direction but as a culture and way of life.




"Aging is an inevitable perpetuum mobile, but we can shift our perception of it. I think it makes for a more healthy and thoughtful way of approaching life."



Marlo: Wabi-not-so-Sabi. In a world, where many things are easily discarded, few Westerners have fully and deeply grasped this profoundly simple concept. What does it mean to you?


Tom: I feel that in Western society there is this urge to pre-determine and label everything. With Wabi-Sabi, it is the other way around, all eyes are aimed toward acceptance. Things are observed but not judged. Aging is an inevitable perpetuum mobile, but we can shift our perception of it. I think it makes for a more healthy and thoughtful way of approaching life.



Marlo: Librarian. As we spoke over the phone several times, often we would find ourselves speaking of literature. Could you share some writers and/or works, that deeply resonates within you and why?


Tom: Marlo, as you know there was a lot of talk going on and some well-known names were dropped. Now I might have to start digging through my perpetual reading list… I was deeply touched by Patti Smith “Just Kids”. I was shedding tears when reading it on a plane and at that moment I didn’t know about Jenna Sutela’s tear crystals, so, unfortunately, I didn’t collect them. Eileen Myles “Chelsea Girls” had a big impact on me. Her conflicting aspects of personality and unaltered rawness is very captivating. Maybe, I am just having my New York 1970’s period whilst obtaining literature and daydreaming about actually living there.


Also here are some books that I am looking forward to reading, but have not tackled yet:


1- *Insert a book here* by Edmund de Waal, I highly recommend to look up his videos on youtube, where he talks about pottery and jewelry. It’s the highest form of flattery. It is one of those ‘find someone who looks at you, the way Edmund de Waal looks at ancient pottery.’


2- Olivia Laing’s “Funny Weather”, she had her book-presentation during the coronsky and I loved her genuine and thoughtful outlook on art.



Marlo: Tommy Textile. So let us turn to the work, the garments, the physical product of your hands and mind. What do your clothes wish to be, what is their contribution to the sartorial world?


Tom: I have always had a very distinct sense of what I want to wear, ever since the days of being young and curious Tom. The clothes have always been another way of expressing myself, a physical extension of my inner state of mind. My desire is to bring effortlessness to people wearing the clothes I have designed. I must say that when I design, I have myself at the center of it, thinking, how I would like the clothes to feel and look. In my opinion, clothes should not restrict either my outer or inner world. They should operate as a nice detail, but not overpowering everything else. There has to be a balance between you telling the story and the clothes telling the story. I would not want one to overshadow the other.





Marlo: Always Papa. That you work closely with your family is a beautiful humble thing, it reminds me of small ateliers, craftsmen, fishermen passing on their trade. What makes it that you guys get along so well?

Tom: I would say that the fisherman grasps the essence of my Papa the best and foremost, he appears to be Ernest Hemingway’s doppelgänger as well. I think our roles are well split. My dad serves as the model and ambassador, whereas I make the design and run the daily operations. The split in responsibilities definitely helps to put our egos aside and ease the tension. The fact, that we don’t live in the same city (or country) is helpful too. The distance can do wonders and it is not so easy to rub salt into wounds over a work phone call.



Marlo: Non-Sartre. You are not really a narcissist (I can vouch for this), but still have opted to shoot yourself for this conversation. What is your thinking here?


Tom: The thing is that I do not only shoot myself, rather it has become an entire family ordeal. Starting with my parents’ dog Benjamin to my grandma. Hypothetically, we could be just the most dreadfully narcissistic family. The truth be told, you are right: I am not a narcissist. Yet I do have all those topless photos in the wild internet realms. There is definitely a certain juxtaposition in that…


It really stems from searching for ways of telling a more personal and authentic story. Having myself and my family in the photos seemed the most appropriate way for me to go. Additionally, I wanted to learn everything from the ground up, in a raw do-it-yourself way. It was important for me to break this illusion, and rather than having a clothing brand as a “Potemkin’s village”, but instead make the behind-the-scenes the forefront and be as honest as I can be about everything.



Marlo: Aesthetics. I also wanted to speak to you about the depth of aesthetics and what they can mean when we walk this earth. What is your personal approach to this deep concept?


Tom: You know how to ask the right questions. Going back to the first question, with Max and his granddad playing tennis. I have always had a photographic memory and a certain sense for colors and textures. I think with getting older, I have developed a clearer idea of what beauty is to me and how I am able to express it. It is not constant, aesthetics are ever fluctuating and changing appearances. Recently, I was talking to my friends about aesthetics over a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc whilst playing some table tennis. We came to the conclusion that we all have a shared appreciation for beauty and certain aesthetics. But I think it is very important to dig deeper and ask what feeling the particular aesthetic sparks in you, and whether it an aesthetic appreciation for yourself or others. Or both.




Marlo: Teflon. Part of our conversations also landed on your own take on society and the world, in many ways your approach felt a little irreverent, which is great. What tasks or situations, do you choose to avoid or ignore?


Tom: Within the spectrum of my work, my pet-peeve is definitely anything accountancy related. I will find any excuse, ranging from trying out a new flavor of gelato, to preparing for a non-existent marathon, just to skip doing any accountancy. That being said, I actually have it in my to-do list right now. In personal life, I try to earth-walk away from situations and people who induce a certain sense of ignorance and entitlement.



Marlo: Like Honey. Obviously this question has to be countered: which people DO you like to surround yourself with?


Tom: The satirical people who lack seriousness when it is needed and vice-versa. There definitely is not a certain pattern or criteria. As long as they have a story to tell and they can crack a joke, it is a bread and butter combination.




Marlo: Nachspiel. As a resident of Berlin, you have surely seen the night, in all its dark, gritty beauty. Where would a Fucking Young! Berlin soirée curated by Tom lead us?


Tom: We both know where Nachspiel usually leads to and it is a very dark and dangerous place, indeed. A place where nothing is planned and anything can happen. Everything starts with an innocent Späti beer until you find yourself lead by the soirée further into the abyss, dancing while questioning if the concept of space and time even exists and then… PLOT-TWIST, out of nowhere you feel someone slapping you in the face with a wet towel, you look around, see the bright light and realize, with a small grin on you face, that it’s Monday morning.



Marlo: Armageddon. Appropriate in these morose times, one to go out with, a proper banger. Say all your possessions where burned in a beautiful hell-fire, but three pieces, which ones would you selvage?


Tom: 1- My granddad’s film photographs shot on Zenit 3M would definitely be on top of the list. Camera and expired film rolls included.

2- A handful of Moleskine-diaries with my handwriting that resembles that of a 10-year-old, paired with the occasional scribbled drawings.

3- This has to be: Pete Sampras’s Wilson tennis racket from the 1980s which I found in this tiny tennis store in Tokyo. Although it has a cracked frame now (remember curious & furious young Tom), I still find it a very emotionally charged and aesthetically pleasing object/tool.

Redaction: well, in lieu of something sartorial: the importance of a good French workwear jacket can never be overstated. If it is thick enough, it could withstand even the beautiful hell-fire. Not sure if I should include it in the list, or if it’s there nonetheless….





Credits : Photography by Chris Abatzis

Massive thanks to Narta Dalladaku


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