Tempus speaks to Oliver Tomalin, founder of Love Brand & Co.
Oliver Tomalin, founder of ethical men’s swim and resort wear label Love Brand & Co, is deadly serious when he says he was destined to launch a fashion and lifestyle brand committed to saving elephants and other endangered wildlife. “I feel my whole life was building up to me starting this brand, bringing together all of my worlds into one,” he tells Tempus.
An architecture graduate-turned-entrepreneur, he always knew he wanted to create a brand with a greater purpose but it wasn’t until he came across a charity exhibition in London of life-size baby elephant sculptures eleven years ago that he found his cause. “It was the Elephant Parade in association with [the charity] Elephant Family,” Tomalin recalls. “This was my eureka moment. I was drawn to it artistically but also taken by the message that elephants could become extinct in my lifetime. I took the idea to [the late] Mark Shand, co-founder of Elephant Family, and said I wanted to create a swimwear brand to help his cause and he loved it. He was a big champion of our brand.”
For Tomalin, who spent many holidays on safari in South Africa as a child with his family, elephants have long held a special place in his heart, so it seemed an ideal fit – especially with the irresistible mission hook of ‘Trunks for Trunks’. He also committed straight away to donating 5% of company revenues to the charity, dedicated to conserving endangered Asian elephants. (He now supports Elephant Family through Love Brand’s new partnership with 1% for the Planet, which works with environmental non-profit organisations around the world, in order to make the business scalable.)
Since its launch in 2010, Love Brand has become the go-to summer lifestyle brand for the discerning male shopper, drawn as much by its clever, colourful prints and comfortable fit as its strong eco credentials. The collections, which include classic linen shirts, T-shirts, shorts and trousers, are 100% vegan and produced in Europe using the finest organic and recycled fabrics. The label’s best-selling swim shorts (for men and boys) are made entirely from recycled plastic.
With his trained eye, Tomalin is focused on creating vibrant prints inspired by the natural world that are fun to wear but also tell the story of endangered wildlife and species in a deliberately subtle and playful way. “What I love is playing with simple silhouettes and drawing shapes from nature with an architectural economy of line,” he says. “I use the prints to be the narrative for the brand.”
He eschews obvious animal patterns for more sophisticated abstract designs that play on the use of negative space and invite the wearer to look more closely and seek out a secret message or double meaning. For the ‘Eye of the Tiger’ print, for example, the critically endangered Sumatran tiger is hidden within the geometric print, signifying how the creatures are almost lost in the wild.
For the summer collection ‘Somewhere Under the Sea’, Tomalin adapted the natural markings of the spotted eagle ray and hid the word ‘love’ in the pattern. Another print was inspired by the memorable sight of a diving sperm whale with the tail form mirrored and repeated to create a seaweed pattern in blue and aqua green.
The new collection pays homage to the extraordinary variety of marine species in the Bahamas, where Tomalin’s wife Rose has family connections, and marks Love Brand’s partnership with the California-based charity WildAid, which works to reduce demand for wildlife products. He has designed an exclusive shark print in support of WildAid’s campaign to outlaw the inhumane practice of finning and reduce shark fin consumption in China and Thailand. “When the buying stops, the killing can, too,” reasons Tomalin, who has created a print that gives the illusion of shark jaws from the fins of swimming sharks. “More than 70 shark species are at risk of extinction, so it’s about changing consumer habits and raising awareness. Sharks are one of the most misunderstood creatures and incredibly persecuted.”
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WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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