Cover Nalisa Amin in Prada (Photo: Chee Wei)

Our October 2021 cover star goes through some of the most memorable looks from her personal archive of photographs to trace her style evolution

A model and influencer by profession, it comes as no surprise that Nalisa Amin has always been interested in style and fashion. "I've always been intrigued by how people dress. A lot of my passion for it comes from my mother, especially my love for jewellery," she says. "I have an older sister who is not into that kind of stuff so when my mother passes down her clothes and jewellery, I always joke that it's going to the family's only fashionable daughter." 

Nalisa began experimenting with her own style in her teens, taking cues from the musical icons of the time. "I definitely went through phases. The early days were a combination of emo and '90s hip hop and R&B," she laughs. "Over the years, I became more confident and tried different things. Some of my fashion choices were questionable but you know what? I'm proud of them—I look good! I remember always happy rocking those outfits. I dressed the way I wanted to and that's something that I still do today."

See also: Asia's Most Stylish: Meet 18 Malaysian Style Trailblazers of 2021

2010

From the leather jacket over a black tunic to her layered accessories and dark liner, this black-on-black look featured sartorial staples of the era, influenced by Kate Moss, Amy Winehouse and the British rock scene.

"To this day, I feel like black is the safest colour. Put on any black top and trousers, it's always going to be chic and stylish," she begins before admitting with a laugh that she was going through a 'leather jacket' phase at the time. "In this picture, I was in a club and it was so hot. Wearing a leather jacket in Malaysia—can you imagine how sweaty I was?" 

See also: "We Plus-Size Girls Still Want To Look Sexy!" Says Nalisa Amin

Black is the safest colour. Put on any black top and trousers, it's always going to be chic and stylish.
Nalisa Amin

But adhering to the trends of the times was not Nalisa's only priority. She shared that her affinity for layers in her youth stemmed from insecurities about her body. "Thinking back, most of the photos that I took (and lost) rarely went below my shoulders," she reveals. 

See also: Dermalogica's Master Instructor on Acne and Skin Acceptance

2016

Beloved treasures from her broke student days, these thrifted camouflage army jackets still sit in Nalisa's wardrobe today. "I was so into these army jackets, I don't even know why. Maybe I should Marie Kondo it but I can't let go of the memories. You never know, it might come back," she says. 

Before labels and luxury, thrifting was integral in helping Nalisa develop her own sense of style back in the day. "It's amazing what you can find at thrift stores I'm glad that young people are now also turning to thrifting as a cheap (and sustainable!) way to experiment with their style. But there's more of a downside these days with the hoarding and crazy resell prices," she adds. 

See also: The Future of Fashion: What Is Thrifting and Upcycling?

2018

Twenty eighteen was a transformative year for Nalisa's journey, where she began to develop style personas for fun—from a scheming wife of an ageing Russian millionaire and festival babe to a leather-clad spy.

Did these characters represent the different aspects of her personality or was she mostly interested in embodying the aesthetic? "It's a bit of both! Fashion is such a vessel to explore and express yourself," she responds, adding that it was a particularly satisfying experience because she had overcome many of the insecurities from her youth. 

"I was comfortable in my body—I didn't care what people thought anymore. I began wearing more colours, bold patterns and sexy stuff. Of course, I noticed that people would stare because it was quite rare to see a chubby girl be confident in herself and wearing sexy outfits. But they were going to do it anyway, no matter what I do or how I dress. I might as well look good and feel good!" 

See also: The Secret To Ung Yiu Lin's Effortless Beauty

2020

The nationwide lockdown last year spurred Nalisa on to make a bold decision: cutting off her hair. "I've always wanted to do it but I kept making excuses in my head like 'My face would be too round'. I had the long curly hair for so long and it was fun styling it but at times, I felt like I hid behind my hair because it was so big. It was like a security blanket. I needed a change," she says.

In early July 2020, she debuted her bleached blonde buzzcut on social media and hasn't looked back. Since taking the plunge, she has been able to explore more androgynous and gender-neutral looks, channelling her ultimate style inspiration, the late music icon Prince. 

See also: 9 of Rihanna's Most Epic Fashion Moments

During this time, Nalisa also cultivated her love for loungewear, sharing photos of herself wearing her favourite local brands including Summer and Peach, Felancy, and more with her thousands of followers. 

"I do read the comments and respond to DMs but when it comes to more risqué posts, I try not to read them because some people just don't understand boundaries! They just type whatever they think," she says. 

But that shouldn't discourage anyone from using social media. "If you feel good and you think your outfit is fire, just post it!" 

"I know a lot of people are insecure about posting things on line, because they’ve been staring at the picture for so long. They will automatically start nitpicking," she continues, drawing from her own experience. "I try to remember that most people have the attention span of a goldfish—they double tap to like, comment and scroll away in less than a minute!"

See also: Meet The Social Media Stars on The Gen. T List 2021

2021

Fast forward to today, Nalisa is on the cover of Tatler Malaysia's October issue and one of the style trailblazers honoured on the Asia's Most Stylish list this year. "My favourite look was the Gucci power suit. The feathers made it so extra; I felt so empowered. And when they put on that choker, I knew I was ready to kill it," she says. 

And it's only the beginning for Nalisa. One day, she hopes to don a full velvet ensemble: "Velvet is so luxurious and it's rare to see it in Malaysia because of the climate. A royal, full-bodied princess look—that's the dream!"

See also: 5 Business Leaders Who Dress With Finesse

Add some spice, add some seasoning! Don't be afraid to express yourself.
Nalisa Amin

She encourages fellow Malaysians to follow her lead in dreaming big, stepping out of their comfort zones and experimenting with different styles. "Add some spice, add some seasoning! Don't be afraid to express yourself," she enthuses. And if they don't know where to start, Nalisa recommends supporting local brands and artisans as a starting point, especially the ones which are celebrating and modernising traditional batik designs. 

See also: How To Style Modern Batik For Every Occasion