The Menswear Style Podcast

Oliver Tomalin, Co-Founder of Love Brand & Co.

March 28, 2022 Menswear Style Episode 168
The Menswear Style Podcast
Oliver Tomalin, Co-Founder of Love Brand & Co.
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Co-founders Oliver and Rose have been chasing the sun together since they met in 2010. With family ties to the Bahamas, the couple have spent the last decade loving island life and creating their ultimate summer lifestyle brand. They both share a love of travelling and sunshine and elephants. The fact that elephants could be extinct in our lifetime motivated the British couple to dedicate their brand to helping through a combination of fashion and philanthropy - 'Trunks for Trunks'. Since day one, LOVE BRAND & Co. has donated a percentage of revenue to charities helping wild elephants and endangered species. The brand's loving ethos is symbolised by their logo of two elephants forming a heart. The brand's first line of men's and boys swimming trunks showcased at Selfridges in London in 2011. For over a decade since, they have continued to redefine men's beachwear with greater purpose. Fast-forward to today and the co-founders are married with 2 children and living the beach life they love in the Bahamas.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Oliver Tomalin, Co-Founder of Love Brand & Co. about the founding story of the 10 year old British beachwear brand which is inspired by island life. Peter Brooker and Oliver talk about why he was attracted to a summer brand, his mission to save wild elephants, the design process, sustainability, future store openings, seasonality, and forthcoming collaborations with Abercrombie & Kent and Globetrotter.

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PB:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. Today I am talking to the co founder and director of love brand and CO Oliver Tomlin lab brand and CO they are a beachwear sensation created by a British couple over and Rose Tomlin. With the love of Ireland life and nature predominantly elephants a couple of redefining beachwear with a greater purpose, renowned for football prints, effortless style, sustainable fabrics, love brand and CO has mastered the balance of casual chic, with uncompromising attention to detail and an enduring commitment to helping wildlife. Really love this interview. Great talking to Oliver. And we get into all of the minutiae of how it all started his love for elephant see designs and where the brand is going next. So here is all about a talk about love brand and CO, in his own words,

Unknown:

on all of our founder of love brand, we're actually I should say, co founder, as you, you highlighted pizza giving my wife due credit as the Other Half Blood brands, not branding is a British beachwear brands. What we're trying to do is export the island life that my wife and I love to London in the world, together with our passion and desire to help wildlife.

PB:

Amazing. So take me back to the beginning of are we talking about 10 years ago when this got off the ground?

Unknown:

Yes, amazing to think that it's actually a little bit over 10 years, they kind of pandemics frozen, and slightly stunted our 10 year anniversary celebration, so we should probably get to that at some point. But yes, we I first conceived in 2010, and we developed it my wife and I have girlfriend at the time. And I rose in the second half of 2010. And we started trading in 2011. And so it's, yeah, over 10 years, hard to believe. We sold our first pair of trunks on the shop floor of Selfridges in, in 2011. Yeah, so it's, yeah, it's a, it's quite an interesting point, actually, to do a bit of a retrospective, and I think the, you know, the last few years have have kind of given us that time to draw breath and, and kind of see the project and how far we've come with a little bit of a longer lens, which is rather than being kind of madly running around doing one thing, and then the next day today. But yes, going back to how it all began, it's rather kind of fated story. In many ways. I've been always a big believer of just embracing whatever life throws at you. And I decided to not pursue architecture as a career, which is what I studied at university to actually start enforcing espadrilles, which was extraordinary idea. So I kind of stopped designing business buildings. And, and, but I my friends and family found me on Portobello Road and early on a Saturday morning with a store full of all these different coloured espadrilles that I fell in love with when I was doing my architectural degree in Madrid. So that is a sort of that's the sort of story of its own. But that was quite a key juncture in my life when I decided not to pursue architecture and just kind of follow my my dreams and and not know exactly what life would be I think with with a career in architecture, you know, that's basically what you're going to be doing, you know, for your entire career. And I was just had a little bit more of an entrepreneurial spirit, I suppose. And wanted to kind of see where everything led me. So that was my first idea, which was an opener into the world of retail, and I just just caught the bug. And so, sadly, the hospital business wasn't as lucrative or as scalable at the time as I'd hoped. But it was still an incredible learning. Yeah. And we I sort of over the few years of doing that took a stolen Portobello Road to distributing astronauts with jaundice nationwide, which was the kind of the kind of claim to fame on that. And then actually it was that that deal that kind of was the was the fate seal the face of that project because I realised how important margin was, if we're going to actually pursue wholesale business. And with all of this, I had, you know, been going into these things with no experience just, you know, learning on the job. And I learned the hard way that you really need a much better margin to vote if you're going to pursue a wholesale business with it with within within that particular project. So that was the end of that and I needed to relook at relook at things. So I was dead set on a summer brand, but not very expensive. epidurals that also had a bit of a ceiling retail price that everyone kind of felt that they could get them in Century markets x. So it was, it was sort of, you know, I needed to start again, and I really wanted to manufacture my own my own line and come up with my own brand, and really add value until I went away and kind of came up with that all at the same time as meeting rose. And we, we did that together and that that's how love brand came to be. I thought swimwear was a very exciting space, I felt like there was a time for a new brand that can freshen up and disrupt the men's luxury swimwear market a bit.

PB:

So what was it like 10 years ago, that market?

Unknown:

It's quite well, back in 2010. The key leader for me in the style of swim shorts that we do was an RV still is the French brands, Uber, Quinn, Kwan, maybe French language, French accents. And the great British, in my, in my understanding of how men swims evolved from, you know, kind of just chucking on your drawers and jumping in the sea. You know, in the early, early days, to some very basics, swim shorts, just, you know, just the something to where I felt that there could be a similar offering a comfortable swimming trunk offering. And that's what I kind of gave thought to and create a blog brand to kind of do what we wanted to do. And I say we the royal way, it was just little Rosen at the time was come up with something that was kind of in it somewhere in between in terms of style, so casual, but also really elevated. And, and most importantly, the love and background. And that's what gave birth the name is that we wanted to do with this huge passion to help wildlife and that was our kind of unique selling point. And, you know, we came to markets, as I said itself, which is with the strapline trucks, trucks, swimming trunks to save wild elephants. And I think that's how it will. That's how it all began. Why elephants, you know, we may think, is again, kind of phases is it my wife, Rose, when we met, were talking about this, you just come back from an elephant sanctuary in Kenya, and in 2010, as well there was this elephant braids in London. I don't know if you saw it, but it was these beautiful Painted elephant sculptures that were kind of kind of monumental art exhibition around London, and it caught my eye. And the main messaging campaigns that elephants could be extinct within the the time within 20 years or I can't remember exactly what the campaign message was, but it was alarming and realise that elephants which is a favourite animal of mine growing up with my father's childhood and early life spent in South Africa and so we had been to gain reserves as children, my sister and I knew that they could be extinct in my lifetime. It was that kind of again, talking about that looking out for those universal signs and I saw that I was thinking this put the two together. I was like this is what I'm going to do this is this is what brand is going to be about it's going to have a great purpose and all these other brands that are there that are just amazing bands as they are. They're just they're just they're just shorts and for me I A lot of brand products and more than just shorts or just a t shirt. It's what it stands for. And that was our was our mantra and mission from the start. So I rambling on that piece.

PB:

No, no, no, I was just listening to you ramble within with keen interest. It is interesting. Elephants is like something that you kind of see on TV growing up, you might be watching films, it could be Octopussy, Indiana Jones, and you. And then you might even catch on at a zoo, but until you actually see them in the flesh in their own habitat, I was lucky enough to see that a couple of years ago in South Africa Wildlife Park, and we were encircled in this in the car by I'm not gonna call it a stampede of elephants, but herd of elephants kind of going left and right over us and, and the tour guide saying just keep still just keep still don't do anything. Don't say anything. I mean, he's, he was very experienced, but he was like, just you have to ride this out, you're kind of in the middle of all of these elephants flanking you left and right. And then one elephant just stopped. And he kind of just stopped looked in. It was a younger one. And just almost just to say, what's going on in that car? Who is this? Who is this guy? Nothing to see him moving on. But that kind of one. One moment, I mean, your whole world to stop for a second and you're looking into like another world in their eyes. They are just like no other creature. I think they're just so magical to see. And outside rambling on myself about South Africa. But the I was gonna ask when so when you met Rose, your girlfriend to then wife? And what kind of idea did you have in the head at the time? And what did you have the ideas almost fleshed out? And were you you pitching into her? Or did you nurture these ideas together?

Unknown:

Yeah, so So I kind of relayed the story in a bit of a jumbled fashion. So I was kind of pursuing a business of my own, I wanted to, I mean, the thing, I suppose there's the overriding logic was that, you know, I love the, you know, these, the holiday feeling and the beach lifestyle. And so I was wanting to continue doing something. And in that in some lifestyle, rather than, you know, a business and something else, I think that was what I wanted to do. But I was kind of working out what the first product would be and what the brand would be, like, at the time that I met those and we find shapes shape that together, I'd say, I'd say rose, has been the most incredible sounding board and guardian of the brand over the decades. You know, and a really, she's never, she's never worked in the business of being on the payroll. But a team and I always had this great respect for Rose's view, and that has helped steer my kind of creativity and direction of the company over the years, wisely. You know, still, we still made a tonne of mistakes as you word when you're doing something, you know, with no experience, really, at all going into it. We've learned from those mistakes. And I think the brand is almost better for that, because we have been allowed to do it our way. Rather, being told, this is how it's done. So we, we, we wanted to do it our way. And we kind of knew that we probably get a few things wrong. But at the end of the day, we were doing it with a huge amount of passion. It was huge amounts of fun. We're doing it together. And did it really matter. And we've been very lucky with that. And I think yeah, that's quite unique to us and how we've done it wouldn't necessarily recommend the way we've done it to the next you know, budding business in and out there's it's taken a lot of a lot of time it's been a huge amount of pain and a lot of a lot of when I say pain, I mean just you know, a lot of things haven't gone rise and there's been huge, huge lows and huge highs but I do think at the end of the day you get something that's very true to you and what you wanted and kind of authentic proposition as a result.

PB:

And are you designing the collections over I know you've you've designed the recent one, what's, where are the garments made and how the designs coming together?

Unknown:

Yeah, I do. I do all the design so I from the beginning have done everything and as the company's grown I've been lucky to not have to do everything because you quickly work out what you're good at. And we're terrible at. And in my case, I really enjoy the design and the creative direction of the brand. And I've been able to really kind of explore my creativity that I had, you know, and wanted to pursue. And I was doing fine art in architecture, through my print design, which has been really fun. So I design prints, as well as the collections. But really, the collections are relatively small. I mean, we don't aim to be doing huge, groundbreaking products, really, we just want to do the first in class that what we do, and that's incredible swimming, trying the best linen shirts, t shirt, those essentials, and just elevate those and refine those year on year season season, we just keep tweaking and to be the best it can be. So that's as well as that I'd really been very involved from the beginning on the charity side, and what the brand's values are. And that's evolved massively over 10 years. I mean, from from the first day, the first Pertronix, we donated percentage of our revenue rather than profit, understanding that we probably wouldn't weren't profitable, and wanting to genuinely make a difference and connect to our partners, we did it on revenue, which was an interesting idea and concept in itself. And we've done that from the beginning, but how we've incorporated that into the rounds, and how and projects that we've supported have evolved massively over 10 years. And at the same time, we've really addressed not just maximising our impact to help wildlife through the brand, but also minimising our impact on the planet through the brand as well. And that's something that's come through more and more and we are taking our sustainability credentials really seriously and really excited to be producing everything beautiful factories, where we really know them by name and by family and, and we're all you know, pioneering and, and steadfast in, in reducing their impacts, and we're embracing all the technologies and fabrications that are out there. All swim shorts are made from 100% recycled single use plastic, which is always still amazes me that they can have such a kind of cotton handle, and be so software still dry so fast and be made from from plastic bottles essentially through to you know, all of our resort where we're going to plant base ham, the trims the recycled buttons made of nut rather than plastic. And, you know, we're conscious of, you know, how we die and how we print and, and all the way through to, you know, the locations of all of this and, and how we can measure and reduce our impacts and carbon footprints over time. And that's something that will continue to evolve as long as, as long as I'm still under brand still in life and in operation. It's a it's something that we're committed to always endeavouring to, to improve and that's, yeah, so that and that's a far cry from how it was started. Because when you when you you know, when you have never made a garment in your life, you know, you kind of you it was literally as basic as speaking to friends who say saying, you know, any ideas where I can make something and they might know someone who's who makes something in a factory in in Hong Kong, which was what happened in our case in our, you know, first first shorts with a very reputable factory and it was great, you know, you know, it was just a million miles away from where we are now. And it's great how how the brand and how that yeah, that's bold. Where are the

PB:

factories now?

Unknown:

So most of our all of our factories are in Europe, but a lot of them are in Spain and Portugal. That's where the bulk of the line is made. It is a fantastic factories there. And as I say it's such a beautiful parts of the world. I mean, I think we're the team I like to go down there and have, you know, visit the factories and have a nice glass of wine for purchase as many as much as possible. Lovely, lovely part of the world. But they are, you know, they're lovely people and they're doing really interesting things. And they say, like, one of them's using old, you know, pistachio nut shells and other organic things to, to, to go back into, like the energy source for their factory in the winter and your little ideas like that. I just think it's really innovative. And, and, you know, we're all on the same page. And we've been, you know, as, as we've grown, as a company, we've taken that kind of audit seeing and really choosing those partners really carefully. And we're very pleased with and excited to continue these incredible partnerships with the makers that we have

PB:

interest in. And Oliver now you got to place some bricks and mortar down in Notting Hill, down the Westbourne grove. Yeah.

Unknown:

To to actually in West Berlin and one in Chelsea. Ones, just just between Fulham road and Kings Road in similar is quite a lot of people say why have you got you know, the whole earth? Why have you got to one mile from each other? And that's a very good point. But no, it was, you know, they have very different kind of customers and being quite closely we can do will manage those rents obesity. But yeah, we've got those two stores, and we're looking to open our first international store, potentially this year, which is exciting.

PB:

Cool. Do we know where is that secret?

Unknown:

It's a secret visa? I think we I think nothing's confirmed. So I wouldn't want to jinx it. But I mean, over the next few years, certainly we've got ambitious plans internationally, and, you know, all the spots where there's lots of sun and and see, you know, is a place that our brand can call home. But yeah, that's again, the irony of starting a beachwear brand in London where there was not so much. And there is some see, but not quite to see that one imagined. So it people that you know, that I meet, say this is really nuts. So you've got a beachwear brand. And you started that. And he saw that from London.

PB:

And your next question is, well, actually, it was a question that I was gonna pose to you how you must get this all the time. But how do you kind of sustain this business, especially if you are in London, and that's where your HQ is? Based on resortwear? When we all know that, you know, how long the winters last in this country? So how do you kind of ride that wave when the weather's not so good?

Unknown:

Yeah, so yeah, England's definitely seasonal. And in the early years, there were some very bleak, bleak winters in the shops, for sure. But what we've done over time, is evolve the store concept to be to kind of counter that, and we have it more as a daily ritual and hub for the communities where we are and we offer amazing coffee from the shop, as well as some other lights and beers, drinks and teas and things. All very interestingly curated as well as more things for the less seasonal things like things for home and the villa. That form part of this other big evolution of the brand as well as developing our own main line we've created la grande loves, which is performing quite big part of our 2022 plans. And what LeBron loves is Daniel, on the tin is brands that we love, that share our values and lifestyle. And that together with love brand forms this one stop sign the shot and really we want the store to be that sort of definitive holiday destination. You know, if you're booking a trip and you're going somewhere Sunny, then you know, if you're looking to shop discerning the it's some ways checkout and that as well as the coffee gives us something you know to keep to keep people coming back because it's something that that said Peter like, I wouldn't I I didn't immediately answer it because it's changed in recent times and pandemic, but there is normal times, as you know, with travel as it normally is, you know, it's always summer somewhere and people are looking for Beechworth, you know, 365. And as the brand grew before the pandemic, we was pretty busy throughout the year with people going away on trips, and, you know, blood brands was a daily thing to buy for people's birthdays, which was see throughout the year, you know, inspiring holidays, you know, get some some shorts to say, right, but the hottest, something that I've seen if the Kenny, people do, but But you know, obviously all of that slightly shot out there. So with, you know, with what's happened in recent times,

PB:

I was talking to Alexandra, who connected us, the lady, the good lady works down at the PR firm for you guys. And she mentioned that there is a partnership coming up in April, Can we touch upon that

Unknown:

there are lots of partnerships coming up in April, which one does she was alluding to.

PB:

So another well known well known travel company.

Unknown:

Exactly. So one of my favourite travel companies in the world. And actually, my father's honeymoon way back when was was with these guys. And so I've been excited to to, to work with them for a long time and no more delaying who they are the the partners, Abercrombie and Qantas, UK based travel agency. And they are celebrating their 60 years this year, which is just incredible. And we've been invited to be part of that celebration. And we're doing some exclusive prints that highlights the some of the amazing accomplishments of this company over the last six decades. And so that's one of the few exciting collaborations and the other ones also travel related. And also a company that I hugely admire, which is globetrotter. And we've, we've become friends of Globetrotter, and we've got a safari globe trotting case coming out this summer as well, which is lined with one of our prints. And that is a dream come true. See, see my prints that I started with ideas and my real brain and then they get you know, then they sketch them. And then I've worked on them digitally. And then we see them in in fabric form. And then in product form. And it's always amazing to see that journey of each little idea which all stem from my own and roses experiences of our travels and our love of, of the pliers and the wildlife and could be anything that really triggers a print. And this summer, actually we are going back to the beginning, which is again, the sort of there's this big feeling of looking back on the last decade, this year. And the collection goes back to India, which is where our first partnership began. It was this I met remember, I was saying there was this elephant parade in London in 2010. Well, the charity behind that was called Elephant family, which was founded by Mark Schande. And they they do all this incredible constellation work in India. And the the project that we've been supporting for some time, is this, what we call human elephant coexistence or, which is the idea of humans in these remote parts of India, rather than being a conflict with wild migrating elephants, because you've got elephants going through these ancient migratory paths and destroying crops and disrupting villages. So rather than that conflict, it's respecting their corridors and their space and adapting the urbanisation the development plans, the plantations to allow for those routes. And there's amazing little things going on. But just as a civilization example, as the elephants love, Jack through bananas, plants, so they might plant a larder next to the tea for the tea plantations. Draw the wild elephants there to avoid disturbing that crop and these sort of these sorts of very simple strategies of just local people, you know, adapting to coexist with, you know, our largest land mammal is extraordinary. And we're we've been supporting this project kind of over the years since the beginning and this year, we're going back to tell that story again, and how this champion is an award winning conservation school do borrow who were, over the years have been sponsoring to do his work in this area of Assam region of India. And we all the prints are inspired by the Indian jungle and you've got kind of these magnificent birds called great form Bill's got leopards, tigers, Indian, Indian palaces, elephants and giant butterflies. And then all the colours are kind of inspired as well from this Ruby reds and sort of mystical greens. And at that was where I was going with the kind of collection this year was really kind of going back to the trip that Rose and I took in 2010 when we went into the jungle and saw that for the first time and how that's really stayed with us all this time. And we're still supporting what that amazing work is all about. So that's, that's one of the prints that that will be found inside this limited edition case, which is exciting.

PB:

Amazing. And Globetrotter, one of my favourite brands and James Bond brand as well.

Unknown:

Oh, yes.

PB:

I guess you're kind of a couple of steps removed from James Bond yourself got globetrotter. And now Richard Branson, where's your stuff he was in, consider IO to second cameo. I'm trying to thread the needle on this, you guys, you guys wouldn't be that far away from providing some clothes for the films.

Unknown:

As a massive Bond fan I never seen ever I think I mean, we I suppose our brand is very casual. You know, it's inspired by Rosemary's love of the Bahamas, which is where roses family have long family ties. And all of the conversation that we've had about our our journeys into jungles and our love of wildlife is is is the one side and then on the other side. There's our love of beach life, which was suddenly on steroids when I met resin partner in crime who also loves all of the beach stuff that I love. And I'm cool with how amazingly purchases it is for me that her family for several generations have been living in the Bahamas as well as the UK. And so off we went to the Bahamas. And that also was at a time that we were creating our first line and a lot of that easy breezy as I call it island style comes through in our brand still today. And we're now living here in the Bahamas. And it's very much a part of the aesthetic and style and feeling of the brand. I say all of that, because maybe there is a scene in the Bond film where he's really relaxing. And it's all about the materiality and the feeling of the clothes, rather than just looking incredibly sharp and sloth which bond always does. Because that so you need to you need a strong run, run puncture as we said a blonde was a rundown, and which is a which is a particularly good cocktail. That would work but uh, yeah, no, I mean, I'd be it would be a dream to do collaborations like that. And, you know, we are you know, we I love collaborating, it's so fun and we were fun brands and you know, working with other creative people is such a such a an honour and and fingers crossed more, more of these sorts of things to come in the future.

PB:

Whereabouts in the Bahamas. i

Unknown:

So, we are on the kind of life of key size, which is the script working out my geography it's the

PB:

it's where Sean Connery was before we pass his residence right? Yeah,

Unknown:

exactly. I was literally driving so he's his house. I see every day was old house. Which always and I always think of him so yeah, he had a huge affinity to the foreigners and lived at Nike for many years. Yeah. And he's hugely popular here. And my my my mother in law Newton world as someone who and my my grandma my grandmother in law as well. So, bear in law There are lots of links to the sort of bonded bones and finally, in funny sorts of ways, but ya know, we're that were that side and then the other end of the islands that were the were national town is, you know, the main the main town itself. Yeah,

PB:

I know. I went to the Bahamas can't pull it back. In fact, it was just before the world shut down. So it would have been a couple of years ago. They've managed to get in there, do the bond locations and then and then dodge but you've got the mall got a mall? Man, you got power mirror from fundable? So you got logos gaff and the shark pool? They're good the Ocean Club from Casino Royale. And also a good one, if you I think would be too far away from you down in life. Okay, the kind of skeletal construction site at the beginning of the pre titles of Casino Royale. So where he's, he's chasing on foot and then has to jump from one crane to another crane. That's yeah, that's short here. Yeah. So that's down by that neck of the woods. And I think it's like an old military base. So you can't get to it. But you can get to the fence, as it were, and take some, like some phasing.

Unknown:

So cool. and is and is the is the sort of Junkanoo elements of because all isn't fundable? That's that's all filmed in that sort of imagine as well. Yeah. Sort of the festival bits. Yeah. Yeah. The Carnival side. Yeah.

PB:

Yeah, I will the I'll send you a link because I documented all the geeky one. I mean, the best one is actually if you managed to get down to the hotel on the beach, trinkets, it's not love beach. In fact, that's where he did he shot Lagace I think for you know, with the spear gun and pinned into a wall, so that's love beach, you can go down there. You can sneak onto there, but the breakwater down by the hotel, and I think it's Paradise Beach. Yeah. So that's where that's where a lot of the underwater stuff starts in fundable. And you can grow you can still sneak down there, the lifeguards won't let you do it. But you know, it'll be a bit rebellious like Bond himself. You got to sneak into these playgrounds. And so yeah, I digress. Oliver, it's been such a treat talking to you learning all about the brand, love brand.com It's a place people can go and check out some of the stuff over there. And if you're in town, Notting Hill, and Chelsea as well to shops where you can go in and physically look at the stuff. We'll put all the links over on the show notes at menswear style.co.uk And enjoy the rest of your day. Thanks for joining us on

Unknown:

Facebook. Have a great day

PB:

you've been listening to their menswear style podcast be sure to head over to menswear style dot code at uk for more menswear content and email info at menswear style dot code at UK if you'd like to be a future guest on the show. Finally, please help support the show by leaving a review on iTunes or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Until next time

(Cont.) Oliver Tomalin, Co-Founder of Love Brand & Co.