Staying Independent & Shaping Up His Own Career, Imran Lee Opens Up About the Malaysian Modelling Industry

This feature is a continuation of the Exposé of the Malaysian Fashion Industry.

You’ve probably seen him on runways or social media campaigns of your favourite local designers.

Imran Lee isn’t a new face in the modelling scene, he’s walked for numerous brands including Kitwoo, Adidas, Behati, Rizalman and Japanese fashion brand, Taak.

If you’re wondering why this model is literally everywhere, we’re here to enlighten you on some of his facts.

JUICE got up close and personal with this rising independent model to understand more about the current modelling and fashion industry.

When did Imran start modelling?

Imran Lee for Behati

Imran started modelling when he was 19 years old. When asked his age, he answered, “I’m 27,” which shocked me as I thought he was much younger.

“The first designer that scouted me was Zakwan Anuar and I was then scouted by TTFGA who opened so many doors for me,” he added.

“I was then scouted by Mama Tini and I still remember her quote, ‘Wow, your face looks evil, muka pecah rumah (a burglar’s face)’ after seeing me for the first time.”

Was modelling Imran’s dream job since he was a child?

“Honestly, yes, but it fully became my dream job after seeing how designers market themselves to the world,” Imran answered.

Imran stated that each designer has their own vision and the work culture they bring to the table is never the same.

“When I was still studying in college majoring in Digital Marketing, I absorbed each of these businesses’ work culture and it provides a very meaningful life experience for me.”

Which designer is Imran’s ultimate dream to walk for?

Imran Lee for Kitwoo

“Dior,” he answered quickly.

To him, Dior is the epitome of beautiful models with the perfect attitude for runway life.

“Dior has been in the game for decades and I just love how the brand persistently showcases clean looks and just designs that I could never fall out of love with.”

Does Imran think that the fashion industry is truly inclusive?

“Based on my own personal experience, the industry is somewhat segregated. I don’t think everyone is united so inclusivity would sometimes still be a problem, definitely,” he answered.

But Imran also stated that he doesn’t want to completely disregard the efforts that brands are still working on.

“If you’ve seen recent shows, the Malaysian shows, it’s definitely moving forward,” he added.

“But the younger generation is the backbone of this movement, I think you and I, and the rest of our generation are definitely outspoken on what we want.”

Imran concluded that older designers are also impressed and inspired by the movement done by the youngsters who aren’t afraid to ask for equality and representation through platforms like social media.

Is Imran a full-time model or does he also have a side hustle?

“My daytime job I would say is as a digital marketer, I do photography, videography, and help most SMEs to build their brand,” he answered.

Imran said that to him, modelling is more of a blessing because the modelling industry does not always offer jobs every single day but when jobs come, he’s always grateful for the offer.

Will Imran remain an independent talent or will he join an agency in the future?

“Oh definitely independent,” he answered.

“There’s just a lot more freedom when you’re on your own. Though it’s not easy, it puts my mind at ease at the end of a tiring day.”

Where does Imran see himself in the next 5 years?

yes, this is still Imran Lee for Taak

“I see myself growing as a model, that’s for sure,” said Imran.

“I won’t quit modelling because it keeps me in shape. I’m at the age where if you don’t properly care for yourself, it’s easy to lose every physical aspect that you’ve worked so hard for in your teen years,” he added.

He mentioned that the modelling industry gives him a purpose in life. He then politely asked if he could show a product that he’s been working on.

“This is a business that I’ve been working on that I think would take me places in the next 5 years,” said Imran while showing packaged goods of brownies called Emergency Brownies.

He explained that Emergency Brownies are like cup noodles. There’s a sachet inside and buyers could just pour hot water into the mixture and you would have brownies ready for you in a matter of minutes.

I was genuinely impressed by the product and honestly, werk. A model who’s also an entrepreneur with a good product? You better slay, diva.

What advice would Imran Lee give to aspiring models?

“The #1 thing is to believe in yourself and also trust the process,” he answered.

“If this career is made for you, then it will surely work out that way, but if it’s not, don’t push yourself too hard and there’s always other creative work that you could venture into.”

Imran added that aspiring models should not put their expectations too high, like what happened in the previous case of models being ‘tricked’. He stated that this happens quite often and most aspiring models get completely heartbroken after their expectations are crushed.

“This happened to me before, I thought I was the one, the hot shot, but you tend to forget that there are other things bigger than you,” Imran added.

“Being pretty won’t make you a model straightaway, the industry looks for uniqueness.”

Imran also mentioned that it’s important to look at the bright side of bad experiences. While you might fail to win a competition, at least you’re making more friends and getting contacts with people who are actually in the industry which would be helpful in the long run.

“Remember, bad experiences are still experiences.”

Imran Lee for Hatta Dolmat

Imran Lee proves that there’s definitely a future for those interested in becoming a model. His hard work and determination for success should be praised.

While the fashion business is still not at 100%, I could conclude that the industry is at least trying and listening to what its audience wants.

If you haven’t read the first part of this article, feel free to do so as it relates to a lot of what Imran Lee has answered.