September 15, 2013

A Rainy Day at “The Beach” with Oliver Tomalin

Oliver Tomalin, founder and creative director of Love Brand & Co., poses with an elephant friend in the recently opened flagship boutique
             Umbrella up, leather jacket zipped, and red lipstick freshly applied, I was prepared for my trip to the beach. Do not think sand and surf. Think the exquisite Chelsea Beach, as the street is named, on Fulham Road. As I navigated my way from the South Kensington tube station, I was off to visit the tucked away Love Brand & Co. flagship boutique, which I almost walked right by. With understated gray-black outside décor and subdued block letters above the entrance, the boutique might appear lost, but it is truly a treasure once it is found. 

             I was welcomed by Love Brand & Co. founder and creative director, Oliver Tomalin, who started the brand in 2011. The soothing music, warm space, and affability of Tomalin were a welcomed change to the much less inviting outdoors. The swimwear line currently integrates quirky prints and pops of color with swimming trunks, polo shirts, and tees for men and boys. Now you can think sand and surf. “Fashion for the love of elephants” is the driving force behind the brand, representing an admirable cause to promote elephant conservation. The logo shows two elephants facing each other, their trunks and front feet forming the shape of a heart, an inescapable reminder of the substance beneath the style.

             Five percent of all sales are donated to charities that dedicate themselves to helping endangered elephants from further jeopardy. Love Brand & Co.’s charity partners include Elephant Family, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and Tusk Trust. The boutique itself is pared down to make space for strategically placed and eco-friendly fixtures. Golden wood and clean white allow the vibrant products to dazzle in stark contrast. A green elephant resides over the boutique, giving the nod of approval to Tomalin’s altruistic undertaking. I spoke to the man himself, with his jaunty disposition and easygoing approach to life, to obtain in his own words the zeal he possesses for his project.

             I would like to give a big thank you to José Berrocoso and Oliver Tomalin for making this interview possible. 

Laura Rutkowski: How did you decide that you wanted to play an active role in elephant conservation through a clothing brand? How did you come across this cause? 

Oliver Tomalin: Elephants are my favorite animals. Elephant Family did a parade across London and that was what brought about all that’s happening in Asia. We contacted Elephant Family and they said we could do something to raise awareness for what they were doing.

LR:  What drew you specifically to swimwear and beachwear?

OT: Again, it’s something that I’m passionate about and I just thought that there was definitely a lack of something different and good quality swim shorts. Then, I thought “Trunks for Trunks.®

LR: I saw how on the drawstrings of the shorts, you have little tusks. 

OT: Yeah, that’s one of our great little details. See, the screw as well is stained red as a further symbol of the plight of elephants. The cause is ever concerning. We’re supporting one of our charity partners, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and they’ve started this iWorry campaign with a very powerful statement. One elephant is killed every 15 minutes. At this rate, none will be roaming the wild in 2025. It’s good that you have the tusks on the product because it’s quite a tactile thing and people are constantly brewing about awareness for the problem.

LR: Can you tell us about the current situation elephants face and how you aim to help?

OT: The main problem with the world’s largest land mammal is the lack of land in the places where they are still in the wild, so Africa, Asia, and India. They are running out of space. In Asia, one of the things that our charity partner, Elephant Family, is really working towards is connecting what they call elephant corridors and it’s by rehousing villages that have broken these corridors, which is a very expensive and sociopolitical issue. It’s through doing that the elephants can migrate their natural paths through these corridors.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has a wonderful orphanage in Nairobi and they have a fostering program where they take in orphaned elephants when their parents have either been killed as a result of poaching or natural death. They’ll bring them in and then they’ll go through this process whereby they are actually rehabilitated and reintroduced into the wild. It’s an amazing story actually.

The elephants have keepers through the orphanage who they are with 24 hours a day and once they’ve actually gone into the wild they will come back to the fence of the actual orphanage with their own offspring. It’s just testament to the amazing nature and memory of elephants. [Tomalin visited the orphanage to observe and participate in the baby elephants’ rehabilitation journey.]

I should also mention Tusk Trust, which is one of the most amazing African conservation and general African community and wildlife charities and it’s through them that they are monitoring the species in Africa and doing everything that they can to help save them from becoming extinct.

Photo courtesy of Love Brand & Co.
LR: You just recently opened this flagship boutique, so what has been the best experience so far and what has the feedback been like?

OT: The feedback’s been great. People have come in here quite surprised. It’s quite hard to find, but once you find it, it’s somewhere that you want to come back to. It’s got an interesting mix between this upcycled concept that is key to the DNA of our brand, which is giving everything another chance and the elephants in the wild. Also, materials that we’ve used in this shop have all been things that we’ve found and upcycled to make it work in our luxury store, which is quite unique. These display cases are made of old London scaffold boards, the checkout counter’s an old post office table reinvented, and it goes on with the fruit crates and driftwood that’s just been salvaged and made into a table.

That’s what people comment on as well as the great range of swimwear that we have in store. I think personally just having that launch party at the beginning had incredible attendance and it was just really fun and there was a great energy and feeling behind the whole project. Being here in this part of Chelsea, which is called “The Beach,” is funny because a beachwear brand is finally on “The Beach.”

LR: What can we expect next from the brand?

OT: Love Brand next season is launching its first women’s line, which is extremely exciting. We’ve got Love Brand bikinis with a similar concept to the men’s swim line – classic, an emphasis on quality and color, and a great fit and cut.

LR: What goes into the creative process of picking the prints? How do you decide what you want to put on your clothing pieces?

OT: I design a lot of the prints myself and one of the things in this collection that’s virtually continued into our new collection for Spring/Summer 2014 is this idea of a double meaning, which we do quite a lot of in our brand. For example, these three [shows me various swimming trunk designs]. We’ve got the conversational of little fish at one level when you look really closely, but from a distance it’s a shimmering reflection of a lake or pond, and similarly, these dragonflies are also like the weave of a basket and these camels are like the crashing surf. It’s quite cool and it’s just fun. All of the prints are limited editions and inside we print the limited edition name and number that we’ve produced. It’s just whatever springs into my mind.

LR: Would you ever consider trying to sponsor any other endangered animals or do you want to just focus on mainly elephants?

OT: I think we’ll continue to support elephants until they’re no longer endangered, and once they are sustainably and happily living in the wild in their natural habitat, then we will be able to support another animal in need. The underlying concept of Love Brand is fashion for conservation and we’re currently working extremely hard to help elephants because they need our help right now.

LR: Thank you very much!

OT: [jokingly] You weren’t going to ask me my favorite flavor of ice cream?

LR: No, I promise I wouldn’t! I actually hate those kinds of interviews. If you could be an animal, what animal would you be? You’d be an elephant, right? Obviously.
OT: I would be, because they’re my favorite!

             Discover Love Brand & Co. and their inspiring vision here.

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