Before he founded Triumph & Disaster, sportsman Dion Nash spent 18 years playing for the New Zealand national cricket team, The Blackcaps, traveling around the globe to compete in the gentleman’s game. Nash left the team in 2001 after he and several teammates were found to have smoked cannabis, a forbidden vice within cricket. He rebounded in 2003 via a stint with the decidedly rowdier Auckland Australian Football Team. In addition to becoming a somewhat notorious sports star in the Southern Hemisphere, this gig meant roughly two decades’ worth of long hours spent in the blazing sun, followed by hot showers and whatever soaps, shampoos, and moisturizers were in the locker room. And all of this was punctuated by long dehydrating flights back and forth across the equator.
Nash phased out of sports in 2007, leaving the rugby team and focusing on a new endeavor, a scrappy little New Zealand-made vodka called 42 Below that he’d become a partner in. When the massive global spirits conglomerate Bacardi bought the upstart brand, he stayed on as marketing director, jumping back on a never-ending series of long flights that once again wreaked havoc on his skin. When he went looking for grooming products to soothe his fatigued face, he came up short. During that first part of the 21st century, the metrosexual revolution had taken firm hold of the culture, and with it a dizzying array of products aimed at newly grooming-conscious men flooded the market. Nash thought back to his days on the pitch and what he would have liked to have had in his Dopp kit then, and he wasn’t seeing anything like it on the shelves of the greatly expanded men’s sections in drugstores, department stores, and apothecaries. “A lot of men’s products are doused in concentrated menthols and denatured alcohols, both of which tighten the skin, giving a sense of evaporation on application and a hit on the nose that it is assumed men enjoy,” says Nash. “The fact is, these are irritants and dry out skin.”
Since he couldn’t find the products he needed, Nash did the natural thing and created Triumph & Disaster (the company’s name is a line from a Rudyard Kipling poem). He started working with a crack team of New Zealand chemists on developing a line of men’s grooming products, taking inspiration from old-world formulations, but using natural and local ingredients. The great advantage of “going local” in New Zealand is the wealth of native horticulture, much of it loaded with hidden benefits. “We’ve tried to utilize known medicinal plants of our region, plants that Maoris and Polynesians have used for centuries because of their known healing properties,” says Nash. “For example, Maori warriors used horopito leaves to heal their wounds after battles, as a solution to toothache, and as an antiseptic on their mokos (facial tattoos). Similarly, Polynesians used tamanu oil in the Pacific Islands for everything from sunscreen to healing scars, and we took a page from their playbook and put these ingredients in our products.” For the aromas of the line, Nash brought in Phil Clarke, a veteran of high-end Paris perfume houses and, says Nash, “a grumpy old Aussie guy who likes to tell sheep jokes about Kiwis and who now specializes in making strong-man, distinctively 100% natural fragrances.”
The line aims to offer a complete head-to-toe grooming experience, and ritual, from cleansing to shaving to moisturizing. For the body, The Shearer’s Soap Bar ($12.50) ties back to Nash’s job as a kid cleaning up the work stations of sheep shearers, and the aroma is meant to recall the heavy duty soap the workers would clean up with after a hard day’s work – a strong aroma of pine and bergamot. It exfoliates, too, making the soap strong enough to slough off the most hardy grime without further stressing the skin. For the face, Rock & Roll Suicide ($34) is a rugged scrub made with volcanic ash and green clay that both exfoliates and calms the skin, sloughing off dirt and dead skin cells while soothing the layer below. Ritual Face Cleanser ($28) is mild and front-loaded with peppermint oil that is rich in nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.
The Old Fashioned Shave Cream ($29) neatly splits the difference between old- and new-school creams and works well with both straight edge razors and newer models like the Mach 3, creamy enough to soften the bristle for the former, while still allowing for glide and easy removal on the latter. When we tried it with a modern razor, we found this shave cream to be unexpectedly moist and calm, without any of the dryness and sensitivity we’ve experienced using mass market offerings. And it’s menthol- and alcohol-free.
Finally, there’s Gameface ($54), a rich-but-not-oily blend of jojoba and horopito, an ancient flowering plant with powerful antioxidant qualities, as well as a kiwi secret weapon, the pongee fern, which tightens and lifts the skin, completing the ritual. The mellow aroma of cedarwood, eucalyptus, and sandalwood may give you all the fragrance you want to wear throughout the day, and night. The cream instantly chills the skin out, adding nourishment that somehow satisfies the desire for tended-to skin so completely that you may just skip looking in the mirror entirely
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