It probably happened to most of you: You are looking for, let’s say, a birthday present. So you run from shop to shop and after some time, everything starts to look the same. You start to ask yourself, if you haven’t been at this shop before. But then you realize, that most items that are just too similar. So you continue to the next shop, and there you suddenly see something that stands out. It has different colours. It has a different design. It is different. It is original. On a day like this, I suddenly stumbled over some figures from Tom’s Drag collection. I noticed them instantly and they stuck to my mind.
When I met Arno Müller, the CEO of Tom’s Company who produce the Tom’s Drag collection, I learned that the artist behind the designs, Thomas Hoffmann, passed away in 2012. They were partners not only in business, but also in life and therefore managed to form a unique relationship on the artistic, as well as the business side.
Arno Müller agreed to answer some of my questions about Thomas Hoffman and how he created the collection, as well as the development and the future of the company without the artist.
What inspired the design of the figures, statues and ornaments?
There are several sources of inspiration. Behind it all there is the awareness that one of the essential things the world needs is optimism together with joie de vivre. Look at the story of “Tom’s Drags”: it began with a disaster, when the world was frozen in a state of a collective shock after 9-11 2001. The artist Tom Hoffmann wanted to create something completely different that would give a feeling of optimism and bring back the joie de vivre into people’s lives. Tom being a very positive person he felt that the world needed COLOUR, especially in such dark times. He got inspired by his long trips through many countries and cultures. In his work we find influences from European and American pop art. They are reminiscent of Yellow Submarine, and also of the ornamentation in European, African and Asian popular culture. Tom combined these in his very own unique way, thus creating a lusty frenzy of colours and joys of life.
The word “Drag” can have several meanings. Which meanings are behind “Tom’s Drag”?
Tom’s creations are highly individual and full of energy. They spread enthusiasm and inspiration. They are about breaking the rules. Drag is fun, over the edge, whimsical, startling and cool. This corresponds to the meaning of “Drag” inherent in
– Men wearing women’s clothes (Drag Queens)
– Hot cars racing the quarter miles (“Drag Racing”)
– Drawing in deeply with the breath
You also created a “Silver Line” which is less colourful. What was the reason behind that?
With the Silver Line, we have created a second line for Tom’s Drag that makes the entire package complete. They are not less colourful, but a fresh new variety of silver colours, including new items in a freshly modern and intentionally simplistic design language. This is because gold and silver are not only understood as contrasts, but also as two aspects of a whole that complement each other, like fire and ice, the sun and the moon, or yin and yang. Even if the new Drags, at first glance, seem surprisingly different, in their own way, they consistently remain in the spirit of Tom’s Drag.
Thomas Hoffmann started to make his works as gifts for friends. How did it develop into a company?
Apart from being an artist, Tom had always had his love for beautiful and decorative items. In 1988, we had started our own company called “Tom’s Company”. We imported furniture and handcrafted items from all parts of the world. Great vintage collections with artistic value. This was long before the first “Drags” were created. As pointed out before, Tom created his first drags after 9-11 without any commercial intention. They were personal gifts, created as individual pieces with his love for details. Yet those who received these unique gifts responded with appreciation and enthusiasm: “You’ve got to make more out of this!” And so it came to pass: with Tom’s Company being there and Tom’s great artistic talent we started the first “real” Tom’s Drag Collection.
After the tragic loss of Thomas Hoffmann, how do you see the future of Tom’s Company?
Of course losing Tom was a sheer nightmare. The world seemed to stand still when Tom, all of a sudden and completely unexpectedly, left us. Even today, after six years, he still is greatly missed by all of us and it still seems unreal. But on the other hand there is his huge legacy of design work and creations. Luckily, we had built up Tom’s Company together and I was there from the very first minute, thus knowing all about our business and how to run it. Together with many wonderful people who we’ve worked with over so many years, I managed to reorganize things and we are proud and happy to continue our common work. So Tom’s Company and Tom’s Drag will live on and I guess Tom is proud of us – wherever he may be.
The pictures were kindly provided by Tom’s Company.