Waris Ahluwalia is the type of handsome multihyphenate – House of Waris jewellery designer, creative collaborator, occasional actor and model – that everyone wants at their party. Beyond his social-fixture status, he aligns himself with philanthropic initiatives. His latest is a friendship bracelet for ALDO's #FriendsFight campaign, launching today. Proceeds from sales of the $5 piece benefit Partners in Health's HIV/AIDS initiatives. Ahluwalia spoke with Amy Verner on the phone from New York.
Do you think that what we wear can be an effective way to support a cause?
Supporting causes with whatever we do can be effective. My general philosophy is that you can make a difference doing what you normally do in your everyday life. You don't have to become Mother Teresa to make an impact in the world. But nothing can be achieved if, at the very least, we are not talking about it.
How did the ALDO collaboration begin?
It began quite simply with a phone call about the project and the AFA (ALDO Fights AIDS) campaign. I had seen the previous work in 2005, so I was familiar with the initiative. I was happy to hear it was re-launching and there would be time, energy and money spent on the campaign.
What's the significance of the bracelet's arrow charm?
The arrow represents the symbol of truth and justice and the idea of forward movement and of breaking walls and boundaries as a way to create change. These days, people drink juice more expensive than this bracelet. There's no reason not to be wearing it. And that was the initial conversation roughly two years ago – the idea of [something] being so accessible that there is no barrier to entry. The only way you can make change is if you do it together. It's not something you can do alone.
You've already explored friendship when, to promote one of your jewellery collections last year, you recruited friends to produce a series of short films titled You're My Boo.
I'm just repeating the same message over and over again in a number of ways. It's about humanity, it's about collaborations and about moving forward together and changing history. My friends are a huge part of my inspiration. What also came to mind were the 1960s protest marches where people would stand side-byside for what– ever cause. It's not about race, colour, creed, sexuality.
Is AIDS no longer top of mind?
I think AIDS had its moment in the eighties. But it's not over. And by not talking about it, we're creating a very dangerous situation where people don't realize the problem, right? It was in the media before and that's how the numbers went down. But if we're not talking about it, then the numbers go up. That's why I think it's important that ALDO is back on the mission.
Do you think your name adds cachet to brands you align with?
Well, I don't know. I do believe in standing for something more than just a product. And my mission [has become] more and more apparent: to create thoughtful living. If [I] find partners who believe in that, that's amazing.
You have also been working with Holt Renfrew's Alexandra Weston on H Project, a collection of fair-trade, artisan-crafted products. You're being courted by the Canadians!
Yes, I'm having a real Canada moment – or about to. The H Project is about the same message; creating a dialogue is the only way we can impact change. It's not about a dialogue with yourself. It starts with your most intimate relations and friends.
Which colour bracelet do you plan to wear?
I plan on wearing them all – I like a little bit of colour – that is, if I can find four friends to give them to me.
This interview has been edited and condensed.