Resplendent Roundtable with Oliver Tomalin
Resplendent Roundtable is a series of discussions with thought leaders in travel, sustainability, entrepreneurship and related areas. These are curated by our own editors and the purpose is to provide readers with additional information and inspiration.
- Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your work?
My name is Oliver Tomalin. I am the founder of LOVE BRAND & Co., the British luxury men’s swimwear brand committed to saving elephants. Almost a decade ago, I created the brand, marrying my passion for summer lifestyle with a desire for my brand to have greater purpose in helping protect the natural world. I dedicated the brand to helping conserve wild elephants and donated a percentage of our revenue – not profits – to wildlife charities around the world. We call our mission ‘Trunks for Trunks’ – swimming trunks saving elephants!
The brand centres around good times on holiday, family, sustainability and conservation. We have a timeless silhouette but it is the designs where we are building a reputation for our understated and elegant print handwriting. I love revealing hidden narratives of nature and my travels, using print to draw attention to the natural world and endangered species. From afar my prints look like smart geometric patterns, but on closer inspection there are conversational motifs. A diamond pattern is too boring, a print with kites all over it is too obvious but a diamond print which is actually a squadron of manta rays, this is a LOVE BRAND print.
- Elephants and their preservation are core to both our brands, what do they mean to you?
I believe everything in nature, as in life, is connected. Elephants have always been a special part of my life. Adventures in Africa as a child is where it began and as an adult when I was deciding on the philanthropic direction for my brand 20 years later in London, fatedly elephants were on the streets. Not real of course but an exhibition of painted elephant sculptures raising awareness for Asian elephant conservation. The fact that Asian elephants could be extinct in my lifetime struck a deep nerve, as I have always been in awe of these majestic, intelligent and beautiful animals. Since entering the world of elephant conservation, my love and thinking has grown. I believe elephants hold the key to the changes of attitude which are required for a healthier planet in the future. Elephants are our largest land mammal; they demand a huge amount of wild space to survive. Our survival is dependent on sharing our world with wildlife and nature. Elephants are immortalised in fiction and widely scientifically studied, wrapped up in a history of wildlife crime, tourism crime, geo-political wars and ancient and modern culture. They are fascinating creatures and ask from us all the right questions. Elephants are on the front line of our planet’s battle of space and resource, endlessly waged between man and nature.
- Having a brand with a greater purpose is so important now, why do you believe that luxury should have a greater responsibility?
I have now come to believe that the greatest luxury is having the ability and resources to save the planet we have taken so much from. As a brand that is motivated and inspired daily by travel, adventure and nature it would be wrong for us not to give back to it. Furthermore, the luxury industry has a huge platform from which to speak to a very engaged audience, so we have a responsibility to use it and educate, inform and inspire. I also think that from a financial position as a company or as an individual, if you are in a position to help environmental initiatives, you must. As nothing is more important and uniting, in my mind, than preserving our planet.
- What is your definition of sustainability and being environmentally aware?
From my experience, I would define sustainability in two worlds; ‘caring’ and ‘willingness’. For me it is simply caring about what you are doing and how it is impacting the environment. And then having the willingness to change and evolve and make good choices. Becoming more environmentally aware is a journey. It’s a constant road of learning, challenging things and changing things up, as your business surely changes as does the world around you. I believe that sustainability or the values of “caring and willingness” should sit at the core of all luxury brands. Whether you are starting out or retrofitting these values into an established brand and culture. We started with caring and willingness in the heart of our brand but that does not mean to say we were fully environmentally aware from the start or indeed even now. What is important in my mind, is that we tried to care about what we were doing from the beginning and we are still trying. It is what motivates us. And step by step we improve, to be kinder to the planet. The consumer demands it. It is also important for brands to be transparent and have certifications, as some companies are greenwashing sadly. For LOVE BRAND, our products’ provenance and processes are now as important as the elephants we promise to help protect. But this side of the business has been evolving along with our experience. Our swimsuits were made from non-recycled polyamide – now they are made from recycled plastic. Our linen and cotton products are now certified organic. Our buttons were plastic, now they are made from Corozo nut. Our printing was traditional rotary which uses more water, now we print digitally or by dye-sublimation. Our supply-chain was all over the world, now it is localised in Europe, reducing carbon footprint. We also now carbon-offset our online orders which 10 years ago was not something that was easy to implement, as it is today. These are examples of our “caring and willingness’”.
- Tell us a little bit about how your conservation work and its effects
Since day one, LOVE BRAND & Co. has committed a percentage of revenue – not profit – to helping save elephants from extinction. We are proudly part of ‘1% for the Planet’, a movement of businesses supporting environmental solutions. We donate 1% of our company revenue to select wildlife charities. So together we are raising awareness and funds for elephant conservation. Since the beginning we have worked with some of the most wonderful charities around the world and it is important to note we don’t just donate but rather we become actively involved in promoting their work, visiting their sanctuaries and using our platform as much as possible for the overall benefit. This year we are supporting the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and their incredible Orphans’ Project. To date, the SWT’s Orphans’ Project has successfully raised 260 orphaned elephants who have lost their mothers due to poaching, human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss and drought. The project focuses on rescuing and raising milk-dependent baby elephants, hand-rearing them at their orphanage before gradually introducing them to a wilder environment from which they can safely reintegrate back into the wild at their own pace. Through their careful rehabilitation program, each elephant is lovingly looked after by a team of dedicated keepers who act as surrogate family members.
- What do you hope for the future?
I hope that we can continue to support the good work of our charities and as the brand grows that it resonates with more people. I hope the future of luxury brands has more “caring and willingness”! I hope that we see widespread change within the industry and ultimately audiences will vote with their money and no longer support brands that don’t try to protect and give back to our planet. I do believe we will get there soon. I hope I will see the day where all wild elephants are no longer endangered or persecuted but rather co-existing on our planet in peace.