My name is Davey Hughes. I am the founder of Swazi. I started the company about 25 years ago. For me it’s been a real journey. I think as in life and in business, the first thing you should do is stay true to what you started the business for and for me it was about producing clothing people could not only wear but they would come to love.
We make all of our products in Levin in New Zealand. For me it’s a belief that when you hand-make a product it is a craft. And so the product actually has a soul. If there is anything we strive for it’s not to make more products but to make each one of our products better. Because at the end of a day we have a responsibility not only to our customers but also to the environment to ensure that whatever we make lasts a long time and serves the customer well. But it will also last for many many years and that for me makes me incredibly happy. For me it’s a belief that when you hand-make a product it is a craft. And so the product actually has a soul.
Whenever we develop a product we test it in the world’s harshest environments and take them to places like Alaska, the French Alps or to the New Zealand fjordland country. But then as well I believe that our customers look at our company and see much of the conservation work we do and the work we do with youths and encouraging them to get into nature and to the wild places we have enjoyed over the years. For me the company is more than a company that is there just to make profit. I see it as a tool that we can use to actually make a better world. And perhaps it sounds a little corny: but you only have to make one or two small changes and then you have changed the world.
At heart, I am an outdoors person. I enjoy the mountains and the rivers and the lakes because that’s where my soul is free and that’s where I can also be creative and come up with solutions. When I’m in the outdoors that’s where I can be creative. In nature my soul is free and when you’re free you can come up with solutions. In the outdoors we always have challenges to stay dry, to stay warm, to stay comfortable. You can’t design great products without those experiences and just sitting in front of a computer. Most of our products are designed when we are in the outdoors and the whole design team takes time to visit the outdoors, to stay in the mountains, to come up with innovations that make our customers have a far better experience when they themselves face challenges of weather of mountains that can be unrelenting. When we are close to nature we are close to our customers.
For me visiting strange remote and isolated places has brought about an understanding of how other people also interact with nature. It doesn’t matter which country you are from – the outdoors is a universal language wherever people hail from. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to travel and visit many countries around the world. For me the special thing is obviously meeting people from these countries, also getting into the world and areas that are quite unique and different to what we have in New Zealand. What I have learned: the outdoor people share a common code of ethics morality and responsibility of the environment to ensure that whatever we have today we can pass on to our children. I wish that young people will have the wilderness forever. Because that has been the greatest pleasure of my life: visiting wild places. It’s such a calmness. It’s such a magnificent place to be at the outdoors and it’s always calling.
Pictures by Michael Agel, Leica Camera AG