In 2011, legendary ex-Black Cap skipper Dion Nash founded male cosmetics brand Triumph & Disaster—the company name inspired by the line, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two imposters just the same” from Rudyard Kipling’s fabled ode, If, composed as gentlemanly guidance from a father to a son, and a poem that Dion’s dad gave him, in a frame, when he was 13. Verve caught up with Dion to find out more about his skincare and wellness range (that now caters for ladies, too), fatherhood, and what it means to be a man.
“A lot changes when you become a dad,” says the former cricketer. “As a dad, I certainly want a society that is kind and open and accepting to people of all kinds of orientations. I also want a society that respects effort, achievement, hard work, dedication and tenacity. Sometimes those traits get mixed up with masculinity.”
Dion says he always felt a greater urge to “belong or fit in” rather than the need to “be masculine”, a need that he dismisses as a sign of insecurity. “I think men are certainly more open these days,” he says, “and the world is more accepting. Whether you are gay, straight or bi, it certainly feels like we have moved past the idea that you have to be, or behave, in a certain way.”
Growing up in the small town of Dargaville (“an awesome community, where sport was king”) greatly shaped Dion. He talks of working on his dad’s farm, of “being chucked up high on the hay bales on the back of our Bedford truck”, from where he would throw hay to the cattle. “I felt like I was king of the world up there,” says Dion. “My parents were supportive and sports-mad, so that helped immensely. But perhaps the idea of getting out, taking on the world and exploring what was out there also drove me on.”
Do you miss professional sport?
“I miss being super fit and the focus that comes with that. But I had a good run, I loved it at the time but to be honest I am more excited now about the path ahead of me. As far as fitness goes, I try to go to the gym three times a week, but I’m afraid the intensity and resulting level of fitness ain’t what it used to be!”
Though he’s never met the iconic cricketer, Dion cites Imran Khan as a big influence on his life (“I always admired his spirit as a man, both in sport and after”), and names old headmaster and cricket manager DJ Graham (“because of his mana and integrity”), along with Bruce Plested (“honest, hard-working, tough and smart”) as mentors. Special praise is of course reserved for Dion’s wife, “for her humility, grace, humour and support”.
I ask Dion about his expectations when founding Triumph & Disaster, and how the reality has compared. “Well, I wanted to get away from the machine and being told what to do by a boss who was a better politician than me,” he says. “The reality is I work harder and longer now than I ever have, it is all consuming and it’s tough being the one who the buck stops with. But I love it.”
The company has been quickly embraced around the globe, though Dion admits it doesn’t always feel that way. “It feels like five-and-a-half years of hard toil and effort,” he says. “But we are proud of what we have achieved and excited about the future. I do think we have created a brand that appeals on a base level, I mean everyone understands the tension in life between triumph and disaster, success and failure. But also, I think we have an earnestness about our products that keeps consumers coming back.” And of course, the huge shift in blokes’ openness towards such products has aided that. “I think generally the icky feeling about male skincare that existed a little while back has been eroded and guys now see it as a good thing to groom and moisturise,” adds Dion. “At T&D, we believe that staying young is an attitude and that we are selling wellness and health products, not beauty or vanity, so I think this ethos resonates.”