HELSINKI (Reuters) - A Finnish textile company hopes to cash in on the popularity of artist Touko Laaksonen's homoerotic images among the gay community with a "Tom of Finland" branded range of towels, bed linens and other products.
Tom of Finland is a pseudonym for Laaksonen, who split his time between Finland and California. He is considered one of the best known Finnish artists for his drawings of muscular men wearing tight, black leather uniforms.
Textile company Finlayson said on Thursday it hopes to boost its growth internationally with a new range of products sporting Laaksonen's images, which it has licensed from the Tom of Finland Foundation the artist set up before his death in 1991.
"We are aiming at a wide global gay target group," chief executive and co-owner Jukka Kurttila said. "But we don't see this as a particularly brave move, we think it's a well considered and calm step."
The textile collection was launched on Thursday and will be sold online in Europe, the United States and Australia, and in a flagship store in Helsinki. Pictures released by the company show duvets, towels and other products sporting the images.
"Of course, in a way, this is measuring the level of tolerance in Finland," Kurttila said, adding that a preview earlier this week had drawn mostly positive comment from Finns.
Founded in 1820, Finlayson is one of Finland's most traditional companies, but last summer it was restructured and sold to new Finnish owners by private equity group Capman.
Earlier this year, Finland's postal service issued stamps featuring Laaksonen's homoerotic images.
Unlike other Nordic states, Finland does not recognise same-sex marriage. However, a citizen initiative that calls for a change has pushed a bill for a parliament vote, and it is due to take place next week.
Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Michael Roddy and Catherine Evans