The goodness of their hearts

Local pair starts up socially responsible clothing company, Young Love Outfitters

David Zoppi (left) and Ken Swain, co-founders of Young Love Outfitters, with one of the fledgling company’s signature tote bags. Fifteen percent of each Young Love purchase supports socially responsible causes.

David Zoppi (left) and Ken Swain, co-founders of Young Love Outfitters, with one of the fledgling company’s signature tote bags. Fifteen percent of each Young Love purchase supports socially responsible causes.

Photo By christine g.k. Lapado-breglia

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David Zoppi and Ken Swain are very serious about the motto—“Look good. Do good”—of their new, socially responsible clothing company, Young Love Outfitters. “It’s a ‘for-purpose’ business—part of this new movement, like TOMS Shoes,” is how Zoppi (rhymes with “floppy”) characterized the fledgling online business. TOMS Shoes, for the uninitiated, donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold.

“We thought, ‘Why stop at shoes?’” said the 25-year-old Zoppi. Young Love Outfitters donates 15 percent of each purchase—of hip, socially conscious T-shirts and canvas tote bags—to one of three worthy causes, with plans to extend its merchandise offerings to a full line of clothing, including sunglasses and backpacks.

Young Love has a financial goal for each cause—when that is met, a new cause will take its place. Currently, Young Love is raising $2,000 to buy desks and chairs for three classrooms in West Africa through the Chico-based LeapingStone Foundation, $500 to help replant five forests in areas of deforestation via rural-poor advocacy outfit Plant with Purpose, and $5,000 to provide clean water for residents of Third World countries through an organization called charity: water.

Zoppi and Swain, a 28-year-old painter, illustrator and Southern California ex-pat, have known each other for about five years, having met while employed at the same clothing store at the Chico Mall.

“We love clothing,” offered Swain. “We have always wanted our own clothing line.”

“We knew that we wanted to do something more, something with a purpose rather than just sell clothes to make money,” Zoppi said. In February of this year, the idea of Young Love was born; at the same time Swain and Zoppi quit their mall jobs. Swain and Zoppi at first sold their T-shirts and bags (which are sewn locally by Bear Mountain Production Services, an arm of the Work Training Center) to friends and family; their company went online on June 25.

“We had comfortable jobs with full benefits and we didn’t feel happy and content,” Swain said of his and Zoppi’s decision to leave their jobs and start Young Love. “We just weren’t satisfied.”

Starting Young Love “just felt like the right thing to do,” Zoppi added. “There are so many problems to fix—people starving, people who aren’t able to get health care, people who aren’t able to get their basic needs met that we all take for granted.

Young Love Outfitters’ “Vision Quest” T-shirt.

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“Basically, all our designs are meant to spark a conversation,” said Zoppi, who has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a background in graphic and Web design. “So we really think about that when we do our designs, because we really want people to talk about, ‘What’s on your T-shirt?’ and spread the story.”

Young Love shirt designs include the long-sleeved, crew-neck “Swashbuckler” sweatshirt featuring an anchor and the thought-provoking words “Provide and conquer,” the Young Love “Infinity” tee (“Everything goes full circle,” explained Zoppi), and a black, short-sleeved “Vision Quest” T-shirt, which sports a white feather and the words, “Build your tribe.” Zoppi said the Vision Quest shirt is meant to convey the message, “Surround yourself with good people.”

Of the various tote bags Young Love sells, the biggest seller is its “Fuck plastic” tote. “People love that one,” Zoppi said.

Zoppi and Swain are busy lining up future sustainability-friendly causes to which to donate—“anything from the environment to social issues,” said Zoppi. For his part, Swain is interested in donating to organizations that help animals, particularly in the area of habitat and reef restoration. Having grown up spending his days surfing the So-Cal coast, Swain is keenly aware of the problems facing the sustainability of marine life and the world’s oceans.

“Growing up down there in El Segundo, we were not supposed to swim for two days after it rained,” Swain said. “There were needles, Styrofoam, spray cans, diapers that the pipeline dumped a mile out into the ocean and the current would bring it all back in [toward the beach]. It’s nasty. How bad does it have to get before somebody does something?”

The name of their business reflects the passion that Swain and Zoppi have for doing good in the world. “To us, [Young Love] means a pure, unadulterated love, like you have before you become jaded, before you learn what ‘team’ you’re on,” said Swain.

“An uninfluenced, pure love for all living things,” Zoppi added.

He and Swain have four goals they wish to accomplish with their business, said Zoppi. “We want to design and create awesome clothes that people want to wear, we want to raise as much awareness as possible about issues that we’re facing in the world, we want to use the money that we raise in the most effective way possible, and we want to inspire other people to make their own change in the world and businesses to be more responsible.”

Swain and Zoppi said that their family members and friends have been “really supportive” of their new endeavor. “Everyone wants to help,” said Swain. “We just don’t have enough spots for them.”

Young Love Outfitters is set to have a booth at the Thursday Night Market in the near future, and Zoppi and Swain have plans to take their eco-friendly show on the road at some point. “We want to do a California tour to different [farmers’] markets, from San Francisco down to L.A.,” said Zoppi. “Kind of do a grassroots campaign. …

“There’s no limit to what we can do. We’re just trying to help wherever we can.”