When you are the Creative Director at one of New Zealand’s most read magazines at just 35 years of age, you must be doing something right. Those who know Dan would surely agree with us when we say how cool, calm and collected this legend is, with a serious ease about him. Responsible for the creative direction of NZ's best weekly magazine Viva, Dan has interviewed megastars from Mark Ronson and Louis Theroux through to the skateboarding legend Tony Alva, and his talents don’t stop at journalism. We caught up with Dan Ahwa to chat about how he got to where he is and the current state of the world today.
- You've achieved a lot in your career. What have been some of the highlights? What are you most proud of?
I'm proud of all the great people I get to work with, and people who I've been able to mentor and also see them thrive. Sharing knowledge is important and if you can help someone be great then that's something I can feel proud of. I have also been proud to work with The New Zealand Fashion Museum and co-curate the Exhibition 'Moana Currents: Dressing Aotearoa Now' alongside Doris de Pont, which is currently showing at the Canterbury Museum until September 6 (@moanacurrents). Another highlight is working with our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the team at British Vogue for her shoot and cover for the September 2019 edition, guest-edited by Meghan Markle, and photographed by the late and great Peter Lindbergh. A memory to treasure.
- The pandemic has heavily impacted the journalism industry and I can imagine it's been a very challenging time. How do you see this shaping journalism going forward? Have you noticed any changes in consumer behaviour?
It's been challenging across all industries, but for media and journalism in New Zealand especially, it has been difficult. Out of this, it's only made the journalism community stronger and I know there are people out there who have recently lost their jobs, working on exciting new projects. This is a time to really re-frame how you can tell stories in totally new, interesting and diverse ways. Local stories and indigenous storytelling are going to be key to helping us feel connected and informed as we continue to look at ourselves and who we are in a world that's going through a critical period of immense changes.
- Whilst the pandemic has rapidly put the world in a state of crisis, it's also pulled to the limelight some fundamental issues that have been going on for much longer. The Black Lives Matter movement has rightfully gained a lot of attention locally and abroad. As someone who has used their position of influence to educate, could you share ways kiwis can be better and learn from what is going on in the USA?
It's hard not to look at what is happening in the US and see parallels with our own relationship with racism in Aotearoa. So to understand what is happening there, we can also address the everyday, casual racism we deal with here. Now is the time to speak up and call people out if they continue to make even the most casual of racist remarks. We've all seen and heard it - whether it's at a family Christmas lunch or in our own offices. Casual and systematic racism needs to stop. If you're wanting to know more about the Black experience, there's a lot of helpful literature an article s out there to read and educate yourself on. Heres a few to start with: https://www.viva.co.nz/article/culture-travel/anti-racism-reading-guide/
Surround yourself with good people who can help you if you have questions. Look at your teams -do they reflect the diversity of people in New Zealand? Having a very white, homogenized perspective is not progress. With regards to the local media and fashion industries - it's not enough to say the issue Black Lives Matter doesn't affect you. People have told me in the past few weeks that this is a problem only in the US and not in New Zealand, which is really a thoughtless thing to say. It's beyond politics - it's about humanity. So if you have a platform, use it wisely; whether it's to help educate or stand in solidarity with the Black communities here in Aotearoa and around the world.
- What are some positives you can see coming out of 2020? Anything exciting in the pipeline with Viva?
Desperate for some positivity in our lives. It's great to see some of our designers find ways to keep going in a time where sales are down, and I'm really excited to continue to show my support for local businesses and creatives. Viva has a few exciting things in the pipeline, so watch this space. I think one of the key positives is learning from our time in lockdown how we need to change the way we live our lives. We need to slow down. We need to continue our commitment to the planet. And we need to be kinder and compassionate to people.
- You were the first Asuwere member to run a full year subscription with only Navy items, which we very much approve of. How does Asuwere suit your lifestyle?
That is an honour I am very proud of - navy is my favorite colour after all! As someone who appreciates quality and solutions-focused design, Asuwere fits my lifestyle because every day is different for me; whether it's working in the office writing, out on a shoot location, travelling to an event or meeting with people, I need clothing options that I can change into easily during the day and feel comfortable in. Asuwere pieces are interchangeable and I particularly like all the little smart design details whether it's a pocket with a zip, a neckline that's just the right height or a shirt that fits me perfectly across the shoulders. These are clothes designed to stand the test of time and is one perfect example of how menswear can step up and get involved in the conversation around slow design and sustainable fashion made to last.