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CDLP x Tom of Finland: Fashioning Men's Underwear

L’Officiel chats with the co-founders of the Stockholm-based men’s underwear label on the heels of their latest collaboration with gay erotica artist, Tom of Finland.
Reading time 8 minutes

When underwear label CDLP was founded by Christian Larson and Andreas Palm in 2016, the brand was conceived an ambitious goal: to usher in a new wave of consciousness when it comes to men and their choice of undergarments. Now in 2018, CDLP stands at the forefront of the ever-growing trend of brands that have tapped into the hunger for sartorially focused men’s goods, including underwear. Long gone are the days where simply throwing on a pair of baggy, balloon-silhouetted, boxers would do—it’s time to relegate those bloomers to the pajama drawer and say hello to a sleeker, stretchier future.

In collaboration with the Tom of Finland Foundation, CDLP has partnered with the iconic, homoerotic artist to debut two new silhouettes of men’s underwear in their line, a brief and a jockstrap. Inspired by the artist's sketches of rugged men in tight undergarments, CDLP has breathed life into the iconic illustrations by creating IRL pairs of underwear inspired by Tom of Finland's characters. Along with subtle detailing on each waistband that depicts the artist's signature, every pair comes a limited edition Tom of Finland print along with a portrait of the late artist.

We spoke with CDLP CEO Andreas Palm and creative director Christian Larson about the exciting collaboration, how the company got its bearings, and how fashion is beginning to revolutionize undergarments. 

Which aspects of Tom of Finland’s work stood out or inspired you two the most to create this collaboration with CDLP?

The fact that there is an unapologetic attitude in all of his work—we love how the men in his drawings always have a confident smile on their face. Given society’s acceptance of the LGBTQ community and gay erotica at the time of his early work, there is something remarkable and inspirational about that.

 

As an erotic illustrator, much of his work was centered upon homoeroticism and gay fetish. How did this inspiration of his help shape the two underwear designs?

Studying Tom’s drawings, we noted that the underwear appearing in his art seemed to follow a distinct pattern in look and design, and that they were reoccurring. It was apparent that he put a lot of thought into how the underwear should make his men look great. With the collaboration, we saw an opportunity to realize these designs, and add our own premium fabric and cut to them, marrying Tom’s fantasy with a modern product design.

 

What is the usual process of designing underwear like? As is the nature of undergarments, it seems as if the natural focus would be on the feel and comfort.

Yes, the feel and comfort stands above everything else, but for CDLP, we also put a lot of effort in making the design—how the garments look and fit—should complement the function. We want to design underwear that make people feel great, but look great too.

 

Keeping in mind utility of course, how does this CDLP x Tom of Finland collaboration incorporate the visual aesthetics of his artwork?

Studying the body of work of Tom, we noted that the underwear seen in his drawings made his men look great—and that he really paid a lot ot attention to it as a garment. These garments, designed by Tom of Finland, had never been conceived into reality. It was key for us to not make a gimicky garment, hence why we decided immediately to not print any art onto the garments. We wanted the garments to be as directional as everything else we do at CDLP, and so we stayed true to the concept of realizing Tom’s underwear designs themselves. In addition, we put a lot of effort into the packaging experience of the project. The garments come in a luxury gift box (the jock strap box even made of velvet!), and the artworks we got inspired from are exclusively printed onto the box. Once opened, the box reveals a portrait photograph of Tom himself next to the garment, surrounded by some of the more overt art of his. We’d like to think that Tom would have enjoyed the experience!

 

Is this collaboration designed in homage to the gay community?

We try to not make a difference between what community that these garments are for. We’d like to see it more as a hommage to Tom and his art. He had a meaning with his art, and cared a lot about what men wore in his drawings and how that made them feel. That’s what we stand by, and that’s what this collection celebrates.

 

Why did you two choose to create an underwear brand? What draws you to design undergarments as opposed to other types of clothing?

We actually created CDLP as we could not find underwear that we wanted to wear ourselves. After realising that the underwear industry had stagnated since we went to high school, a time where men bought branded underwear in mediocre quality at premium prices to show off a famous logo on the waistband, we saw that there was room for an alternative. We knew what we wanted—high quality products with a timeless and understated elegance without patterns, big logos or prints. That is what we launched in 2016 and keep working hard for.

 

In your opinion, can underwear be a fashion statement? While women’s underwear and lingerie has traditionally had more of a sartorial focus, what is it like to create men’s underwear with a priority placed on design?

Absolutely, primarily in the sense that you look better if you feel better, and that has been a key ingredient when designing our garments. We receive a lot of feedback from men who say they feel confident and sexy in our products, and we believe that is key to feel fashionable no matter what you choose to wear. We also think that having understated underwear is a subtle statement in its own.

 

How do you two decide on brand collaborations? With past collaborators like Jonas Åkerlund and now Tom of Finland, what is it like to work with such iconic creatives?

When deciding to create CDLP we wanted to do two things: create understated quality underwear for men like ourselves, and to portray an inclusive masculinity that inspired us. We felt that masculinity was rather narrowly presented within the underwear category, where it almost always narrates around the heterosexual machismo with a hint of an athletes physique. But, men we look up to share none of those characteristics. We have consequently sought out brand collaborators that inspire us through their work and with their audacity to go their own way, rather than falling into the norm. Working with these men (and foundation) is inspiring in so many ways, and gives us a glimpse of their world, that we are happy to share as an alternative masculinity to the one we have grown tired of being fed with in popular culture.

 

In your minds, who is the person who wears CDLP underwear?

The man who wears CDLP is a man that has grown tired of low quality cotton underwear, and who appreciates an all over better underwear experience that gives him confidence throughout the day, and makes him look great naked, no matter what body shape he has. Intellectual masculinity to us is when male confidence is built around more than physique, but rather a mental state of knowing who you are and what you stand for, and this is something that we aim to portray in our visual language.

 

What do you envision for the future of CDLP as the brand continues to grow? Do you guys expect to create more styles (perhaps make the jockstrap a permanent in the line)?

We see the underwear line expanding into a couple of more styles, adding a very anticipated sports style and expanding the popular socks category. If our customers like the jock strap it will most definitely be considered for the permanent line, and we are currently working on a dressed up home wear collection. Nevertheless, our mission is to make men own and wear underwear chosen for the occasion, more like how women traditionally choose underwear. It’s fantastic to own a collection of underwear where you can pick and choose from depending how you feel. That’s how a modern man should think about his underwear drawer.

Take a look at the collaboration below. 

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The project is now live at CDLP

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