With the rise in popularity of the androgynous look on both womenswear and menswear catwalks around the world ‒ see Casey Legler, a female menswear model and the infamous Andrej Pejic, a guy who walks for both womenswear and menswear brands ‒ it wasn’t long before an Asian face was going to be among this new style of models. David Chiang was the first, and now Singapore has its very own, emerging male model with an androgynous look.

Ian Luah, 24, may look as soft and delicate as a girl in his images, but behind this cutting-edge vision is a down-to-earth, relaxed, skateboarding dude who kills chickens for a living. Yep, Ian works at his family’s abattoir when he’s not strutting his stuff on a runway or in front of a camera.

ONES TO WATCH IN 2013 Singapore male model Ian Luah DECOR
Singapore male model Ian Luah is becoming known for his unique androgynous look that morphs from Asian to American Indian to southern European depending on the styling. He managed by Now Model Management, check out its Facebook page for more information and images of Ian at www.facebook.com/pages/NOW-Model-Management. Image: Now Model Management

Spotted when he was only 17-years-old while riding a skateboard and hanging out with his friend who’s an actor, Ian put off joining the fashion world until he’d done his National Service, but even now is unsure how long he’ll continue to model.

“It’s a yolo [You Only Live Once] kind of thing,” explains Ian. “I never really had any long term plans; I pretty much always thought I’d end up working in the family business. We started working there really young [Ian has two brothers] and we told ourselves that we’d try something else first and the family business is always there as a back up.”

Ian laughs and agrees that his “day job and night job” are completely at odds with his appearance, something that he takes for granted, despite having already modelled for two years. 

“Men’s Fashion Week [in March, 2012] helped me a lot,” says Ian when explaining how he became more interested in, and better at, modelling. “It exposed me to more about the industry. I realised that it could be a job, but not for long. The fashion industry likes younger looks,” he says, laughing when it’s pointed out that he already looks younger than his years.

ONES TO WATCH IN 2013 Singapore male model Ian Luah by Wesley Kow DECOR
Singapore male model Ian Luah in a special editorial shoot by young Singapore fashion photographer Wesley Kow, wearing the graduate collection from designer Cynthia Fransisca, and styled by Singapore’s godfather of fashion, Daniel Boey. To contact Wesley Kow and to see more of his work, go to www.facebook.com/narcissisthephotographer; to contact Cynthia Fransisca and to see more of her work, go to www.facebook.com/cynthia.fransisca.50, and to contact Daniel Boey for styling of fashion show production, go to www.danielboey.com 

In his first outing at Men’s Fashion Week Singapore in 2012, Ian “booked” ‒ fashion industry speak for being chosen by a designer ‒ ten shows, a record for a Singapore male model. He’s also had a number of editorial shoots including a major spread in Singapore magazine Designaré Homme and The Straits Times fashion section, Urban. Ian has also just been featured alongside Singapore’s hottest female model Vivien Ong in the pages of Lianhe Zhao Bao.

In the last couple of months Ian’s management has had lookbook requests from major Paris modelling agencies and an invitation to enter the Asian Model Festival Awards ‒ a prestigious modelling competition based in Seoul. The future for Ian looks very bright.

“I’ve probably got another two or three years to make my mark in the industry. I’d like to travel and to get the best out of it while I can,” says Ian.

As a young, typical Singapore guy, Ian admits that he got a bit of teasing from his friends and family when he first started modelling, especially after he grew his hair long and began being shot for more androgynous looks. But ironically, it was his “aunties” and female friends who kept suggesting he try the industry.

“My dad … well, pretty much ‘no comment’,” laughs Ian, explaining that his dad is a typical, “rather traditional” guy. “My brothers teased me a little, but once I started making money they thought it was OK,” he says with a smile, “and while my friends still tease me a bit, they also say I should try to get more out of it too.”

As for whether or not he’s become more fashionista and less skateboarder, Ian admits to having a liking for fashion, but says his taste has improved.

“I was always into fashion, not high fashion, more street fashion, but I can appreciate high fashion more now. I try to incorporate high fashion in what I wear but I’m more into street style; I even used to collect sneakers,” says Ian.

Although a future in the fashion industry is possible, Ian says that it’s harder for male models in Singapore to compete globally, partially because they don’t tend to be as tall as western male models which can be a problem for fitting European sample sizes, but also because there are fewer opportunities for them.

“There are not enough opportunities for male models in Singapore,” says Ian, “there are really only jobs in the middle of year, so it’s really hard to make a living just as a male model here, you need to go overseas to get access to more editorial and commercial jobs.”

Still, Ian remains positive that 2013 could be his year, he’s looking forward to Men’s Fashion Week again, and is looking to do more editorial work both in Singapore and in the region ‒ there’s a strong possibility he’ll be heading to Tokyo for a series of meetings with agencies looking to pick him up for work in Japan, as well, so for now it’s looking good for Singapore’s hottest possibility for androgynous male model fame.

“I really do like doing it, it’s more about meeting new people, going to interesting places and events and having new experiences,” he says before heading home to kill some more chickens.

Ian Luah is represented by Now Model Management, #17-13 International Plaza, 10 Anson Road, Singapore. To book Ian, email booker@nowmodelmgmt.com; for more information about Now Model Management and to see more of Ian’s work, check out the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/NOW-Model-Management.