Cover Photos: Courtesy of Arinna Erin & Nike

The London-based Malaysian model and freelance social media strategist shares her unlikely start in modelling and her growing commitment to sustainable fashion

In her school years, it seemed like Arinna Erin Wira was primed to enter the world of modelling, chancing upon casting sessions for huge commercial roles on more than one occasion.

There was only one problem – she hated being in front of the camera. Years of being bullied in school had eaten away at her self-esteem, and she still describes her high school days as some of the worst she experienced in her teens.

Born in Toledo, Ohio in the US, 25-year-old Arinna Erin spent 6 years of her childhood in London before moving to Malaysia in 2005, where she started attending secondary school.

It’s a bizarre backstory to match with the slender, stunning model today, who just wrapped up a dream job in 2019 collaborating with Nike for the Victory Swim collection, the brand’s first swimwear line targeted at Muslim women (the collection is available online from February 2020 onwards).

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Her great strides championing diversity in modelling haven’t kept her from pursuing other causes close to her heart, like ethical fashion and conscious consumerism (we can safely say we don't know many other models who own less than 10 outfits in their wardrobe).

Below, the free-spirited Brunel University London grad tells us what the recent experiences of her career mean to her, and why she loves modelling more than ever today.

So how did you start a career in modelling?

When I was a student at HELP University back home in Malaysia, someone submitted my name for a beauty competition and I was really upset about it. But my mum advised me to go and just have fun with it and gain experience. The stubborn daughter that I am, I sulkily agreed. I ended up in the top 10 of the competition and from there, my modelling career started off.

Did it get easier from there?

I’m not gonna lie: I hated the first 2 years of it, but because it was good pocket money I decided I’d continue doing it until I got bored. Little did I know that I would eventually end up loving it.

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How did your collaboration with Nike come about?

I had heard that Nike was looking for a Malaysian talent. The Nike team from the US contacted me for a phone interview. They asked me if I could swim, and that was the beginning of an epic journey with Nike. The most memorable point was spending time with the entire team. Everyone was lovely and accommodating, and I made a new friend, Ikram Abdi who is also one of the talents for the campaign.

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Above Arinna at the Niketown store on Oxford Street, London. (Photo: Arinna Erin)

Has this been the highlight of your career so far?

It has. I used to question, 'Why haven’t I grown as a model? When am I going to have my moment?' It finally came and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of myself. Of course, I’ve worked with amazing brands and people here in London, and collectively, they’re all part of the high points in my modelling journey.

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I’ve retired from OOTDs and dressing up every day. I own less that 10 outfits, but I always find a way to make them look different every time.
Arinna Erin

Did you encounter any challenges as a modest model in the UK?

Alhamdulillah, it’s been a really good experience for me. Times have changed and being a modest model isn’t something strange here. I can safely say I came in when a lot of brands were advocating diversity.

What inspires your personal style these days?

I’ve retired from OOTDs and dressing up every day. I own less that 10 outfits, but I always find a way to make them look different every time. One thing I’ve developed is conscious consumerism and being ethical in terms of shopping (More like barely shopping). I hardly shop for clothes when I don’t need it. I’d say my style now is minimalist chic. Plain top and jeans paired with sneakers: that’s honestly all you need to look good.

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What’s a typical day in the life of Arinna Erin like?

I wake up at 9am…then go back to sleep. At 11.30am my day actually starts (haha)! I usually go to the gym for kickboxing workouts – currently my favourite kind of workout right now. I’ve only recently started working out and taking care of my health since October last year. It keeps me going every week.

After heading to my usual juice bar, I do a little freelancing work as a social media strategist for a London-based brand and then head back for dinner. On Wednesday evenings, I meet up with the Beni Run Club for our weekly runs about London. This is a normal day for me, but it’s way more hectic if I have shoots or castings.

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How do you rest and recharge on the more hectic days?

When I’m occupied with shoots and castings like I have been recently, I use my off days to either stay home and rest, spend time with my aunt and uncle, or hang out with friends. I really prioritise taking care of myself physically and mentally. It’s really important to remind yourself to slow down a little every once in a while, catch a breath and take it easy. Working out does help me feel more upbeat and less stressed.

What are some London-based brands that you love working with?

There are a lot of modest brands in London and it's refreshing to see them grow as a community and as a movement. I recently had a shoot with Awra London – they have an amazing hijab collection that I adore. I hardly wear prints, but I managed to snag a printed scarf. 

Another brand I respect and work closely with is Nea Wear, an advocate for sustainable wear and ethical products. Again, this is something I hold close to my heart and this is really where my life is leaning towards.

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