Make chats to Oliver Tomalin, the designer and owner of
Love Brand & Co, a men’s beachwear brand with a truly environmentally altruistic angle.
Q. Tell us about yourself?
A. I grew up all over the world and I have always been addicted to travel. I was never very good with numbers and I was also discovered to be dyslexic at school but I immersed myself in art and was given a scholarship. At University I studied Architecture and I enjoyed the creative side but not so much the engineering. That’s probably why I design beachwear now and not buildings but I owe a lot of my creative methodology and conceptual thinking to my architecture days.
After University I had lots of ideas from starting a tapas bar to designing large soft furniture in the shape of fruit to film screenplays. My trouble was I had too many creative thoughts. Eventually, I focused on a simple idea to start a website selling espadrilles, a product loved from holidays around the Mediterranean. I started small from home and packed up the espadrilles (which were handmade in Spain )in brown paper and string and sealed with a heart in red wax. I used to go to the post office with a hessian sack full of these parcels and the people in the queue at the Post Office used to hate me! I also sold the espadrilles at a stall on Portobello Road and I totally caught the bug for selling.
The next stage was taking the espadrilles to a buyer at a large department store and to my delight they placed a national order. But this sale was actually the death of my first business. The wholesale margin they demanded made my espadrilles business un-scalable. So I went back to the drawing board, literally.
Q. What is the concept behind Love Brand & Co?
A. Instead of just importing and selling a product, I decided to start designing again, this time the whole thing, products, the website, the whole brand. I admired the success of Tom’s shoes and their model of ‘one for one’ and I was determined to create a brand and for it to stand for a cause. In 2010, Elephant Family helped exhibit painted elephants across London raising awareness for endangered Asian elephants. The fact that elephants could be extinct in my lifetime (in as little as 25 years even) really struck a chord and I decided to dedicate a brand to help them. I also felt there was a demand for a new men’s swimwear brand and then it clicked and I had the idea for swimming trunks to save elephants, a concept I coined, ‘Trunks for Trunks’! I didn’t want to limit the brand to just swimwear so called the brand – Love Brand & Co. – a brand with a loving ethos for wildlife.
From day one, my family and I decided we should not base our commitment to helping wildlife on a % of profit model, as we knew it would take time for a luxury lifestyle label like this to be profitable and I wanted really to help rather just say we are helping. So we started a concept to commit 5% of our revenue each year to wildlife conservation, which is what we have done every year since. With our 5% revenue commitment model, we give direct funding to localised holistic environmental initiatives, as well as create original content to help tell their story and raise further awareness and funding.
Q. What inspires you?
A. I find inspiration everywhere. It’s actually really hard for me to turn off. I love experiencing things and thinking about how could that work differently or work as well somewhere else. There is always something to take away from all experiences, even the dull ones, I can see how not to live! What drives me is my family. I have two small children, a wonderful wife and a big dog. Making them proud and giving them the best life possible is a big driver but moreover thinking about the state of their future. Will my children live in a world without elephants, rhinos, tigers? Will they have clean air to breathe? These are the questions that really inspire what I do every day.
Q. Elephants are obviously important to you? Did this start in childhood? Tell us more!
A. Elephants have always been close to my heart. My father grew up in South Africa and so I was lucky to see elephants in the wild from a young age. I have put everything I care about into this single project, what I love to do and what I want to help. It is important to love what you do and I feel fortunate that I have built a business around that concept. My passion for wildlife, design, travel and lifestyle continues to grow. As much as I have always thought elephants were special from an early age, my real love started when I created Love Brand and when I started to really learn more about these amazing creatures.
Q. As well as the elephants, you work with other great conservation projects How do you choose the charities that you work with?
A. To date, this is something that has happened very organically. Recently we changed our policy and opened the door to support any endangered species or habitat. We have started working with different groups that have come into the Love Brand world naturally, through selling the brand in different countries. For instance, we have been selling our beachwear in the Bahamas for some time, this year we have started supporting local shark and coral conservation with the group BREEF. Similarly, we work a lot in Ibiza and now we are supporting the Ibiza Preservation Foundation. It is great to support local projects, particularly where the products are being sold.
Q: We are publishing some of the beautiful images of the work you are connected with in Assam, India. Can you tell us more about this initiative and the man you are helping, Dulu?
A. Really this is the first project we have applied the fully evolved Love Brand thinking. It’s an amazing project that came to us through ‘Elephant Family’, our original partner, who received a funding request to sponsor the work of one man, called Dulu. Dulu is dedicated to helping save Asian elephants in Assam in the North-East of India where there is a conflict between the wild elephant population and rural human population. Elephant habitat is being lost to rapid urbanisation and Dulu is trying to solve the issues, protect elephant habitat and promote sustainable human-elephant co-existence.
At Love Brand we have decided to sponsor Dulu’s work for the next two years and so we went out to meet him and see the situation for ourselves. We have made a short film, which we hope will raise awareness for Dulu’s work and Asian elephants.
Q. You are clearly very concerned about preserving the natural world. Obviously, the fashion industry has a huge impact on the environment in the way that it is consumed and produced. What steps does the brand take to try to lessen the impact of the fashion industry on the environment?
A. For me the most sustainable approach is to advocate the use of ‘slow fashion’, ensuring that our collections are designed to last and to be timeless. We are also looking all the time at shortening our supply chains in order to reduce our carbon footprint and have transparency on the provenance of each product. We are learning to be more sustainable also. New fabrics and materials are being innovated and when we have a choice to use a more sustainable option, we always choose it. Our swim shorts are now made using a high performing fabric from recycled plastic bottles. Not so long ago, the words recycled and high performing would have not been put in the same sentence!
Q. What is next for Love Brand & Co?
A. We are launching our project‘Protecting Posidonia’, a seagrass under threat in Ibiza. Over half the air we breathe on earth comes from the ocean so we are supporting the Ibiza Preservation Foundation and their project to map and protect the Posidonia meadows around Ibiza. The meadows are a huge carbon sink and oxygen generator as well as habitat for an abundance of marine life. We are excited to have the support of our local partner Nobu Ibiza Bay on the project and our brand ambassador and SS19 face Toby Huntington-Whiteley actively involved.
To see the whole collection please visit www.lovebrand.com