Waris Ahluwalia has been up since 5 a.m. “I’ve taken to starting my days early,” the 39-year-old tells me on a mild December morning in the Bowery Hotel’s back patio. It’s no wonder Ahluwalia rises before the sun—this Renaissance man in the age of entrepreneurial, multi-hyphenate creatives has plenty to do.
Born in India and based in New York, Ahluwalia is a member of the CFDA; the founder of jewellery label House of Waris and its diffusion line, Waris Loves You; a sometime actor (he’s palled around with Wes Anderson and Co. in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited); a party-page regular; a feted style icon (his pink Esquivel desert boots are a staple); and arguably the patron saint of collaborators, his name often attached to an “x” followed by the name of whichever company he’s working with.
“I do Europe and Asia in the mornings and then settle back into doing American stuff after 9 a.m.,” Ahluwalia says of juggling multiple partnerships with multi-global brands. Most recently, he’s teamed up with Aldo in its continuing fight against AIDS. Together, they’re launching the #FriendsFight campaign this month, which will include a collection of friendship bracelets he designed for the cause. (Aldo will donate 100 percent of the sales to organizations helping those affected by AIDS.)
The project is “not just financial. It’s also about awareness. HIV-AIDS is still an issue,” Ahluwalia says, adding that Aldo has been outspoken about AIDS awareness since 1985, when most companies steered clear of the issue. (Nearly 30 years later, the disease hasn’t backed down: Toronto Public Health’s most recent report indicates that more than a quarter of new HIV cases are diagnosed in the city’s under-30 citizens.)
Ahluwalia collaborates only with those he can meet face to face, once flying to Bangkok for a lunch with a new jewellery craftsman. #FriendsFight was born out of a similar sit-down with the Montreal-based family-run business. “When we hit on those words, ‘Friends Fight,’ it became clear it was going to be a friendship bracelet. The only way we can make change is together: Friends standing side by side, that’s the idea.” The bracelets are a token not simply of summer camp-style amity but also of solidarity.
The concept was a couple of years in the making. “Generally an idea strikes me and I think, I should write that down, and then I forget it. That’s the first step: forgetting,” Ahluwalia says as the sun shines through the patio windows, casting a square pattern on his bespoke tweed suit. “And then if it comes back to you, it’s yours. It was meant to be.”