You only have to be with Oliver and Rose Tomalin, the founders of LOVE BRAND & co., for a moment to feel the passion and excitement for what they do. LOVE BRAND & co. is an irresistibly chic swim and resort wear brand committed to saving elephants.
It was one of the last days of the Indian Summer that we sat together on the Ox Barn terrace to talk trunks. From our family businesses to our shared love of the largest land mammal, there was a lot in common and a lot to cover!
We started at the beginning - from early life experiences on the beaches of Barbados, followed by a British education where he fostered his love of art, Oliver ended up in Spain working with an architect. It was here he met an artisan espadrille maker. Oliver reminisces, “I decided not to continue architecture as a career path, instead bringing these traditional, Spanish shoes back to London and selling them on my Saturday stall on the Portobello Market. I had all the sizes and all the colours racked up.
It was the taste of doing my own thing, being master of my own fate – I just loved the thrill of it. But I didn’t want to do a brand for a brands sake, I wanted to do something meaningful. Fast track a year, I came up with LOVE BRAND & co.. It was at this stage I met Rose.”
In 2010, on Oliver and Rose’s second date, the iconic strap line of LOVE BRAND & co. was created on a napkin - trunks for trunks. LOVE BRAND & co. has evolved through their ten-year journey, celebrating love with a purposeful ethos at its core. When explaining the name of the brand, Rose puts it simply,“LOVE BRAND & co. embodies everything that is loving”, Oliver adds “and doing it with the person I love”.
Both Oliver and Rose share a deep-rooted love for nature and, from simple childhood stories and unforgettable experiences with elephants, a particular connection to these soulful creatures.
Around the same time, Elephant Parade, a social enterprise combining art and conservation, were exhibiting their unique sculptures across London, delivering an irrefutable message. Oliver shares, “in the last 100 years, 90% of Asian elephants have disappeared and in the next 20 they’d be gone.”
Inspired by Elephant Parade, he went on to meet the incredibly charismatic founder of Elephant Family, the late Mark Shand. Shand breathed faith into LOVE BRAND & co. from the get-go. Rose recalls, “if it weren’t for Mark, his belief in Oliver and the business, this amazing path we’ve been down may not have happened.” she continues, “it’s all about belief”.
With this faith instilled, they embarked on their journey, donating 5% of LOVE BRAND & co.’s revenue to Elephant Family. Since then, they have provided hands-on support to a number of environmental initiatives from Tusk and Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to marine conservation. As of this year, LOVE BRAND & co. work with 1% for the Planet, an inspiring global movement supporting a plethora of wildlife charities and environmental funds to protect endangered wildlife and wild spaces.
An interesting evolution of the brand has been this shift in revenue donation. While in the early days, Oliver and Rose calculated 5% as enough to make an impactful difference, as the business grew, this number started to work against them, hindering their growth. Their recent move to 1% for the Planet has allowed their business to flourish and subsequently their contribution to expand. This year, LOVE BRAND & co. & Co. has chosen WildAid as the main charity partner, helping to tackle the demand that funds and fuels the illegal wildlife trade.
The conservation continues to be at the forefront of the company, Rose explains the importance of immersive work with these charities,“that’s when the love really comes to life, you start to really understand what you’re working towards when you’re on the ground…the more time you spend with it, the more the love develops”.
Their journeys and memories of the wildlife they encounter provides endless inspiration for their designs. All aspects of LOVE BRAND & co. are designed by Oliver, from the geometric prints to the logo, which depicts a hybrid of African and Asian elephants. “My handwriting as a print designer is taking shapes from nature; their negative space, their colours and tones; and the interplay of those elements. From these we create secondary, even tertiary narratives to form a very simple, geometric print so from afar, you are not obviously wearing a tiger.”
Although the conservation crisis is undoubtedly serious, Oliver actively creates patterns full of character and personality. “One of the biggest challenges has been juggling the balance between creating a fun-loving brand with a very serious side. You want with all sincerity to engage people about the seriousness of the threats to the planet”.
It is the brilliant subtly of the designs and simplicity of the message that is so impactful. In a digital world where people are so often faced with an overload of information, the art of gently piquing interest and starting a conversation is so rare, but it is what LOVE BRAND & co. do so well.
Oliver emphasises “charity and conservation runs deep. It is at the forefront of everything we do as a company, embodying every decision we make”. Being conscious of their footprint, they practice sustainability across the business, from the recycled labels they use to the renewable energy that powers their two London shops.
Oliver describes their journey thus far “putting one foot in front of the other and learning from our mistakes” but this is all what makes it such an authentic product, promoting a slow mindful way of life. They laugh, “we are like swans, giving a smooth appearance above but kicking like mad underneath to keep everything going.”
This year marks their 10th anniversary, and what a journey they have had so far!