by Ankita Jain

This year. Zander Lama received huge attention after receiving the title of “Male Model of the Year” at India Fashion Awards. Born in Lamjung in a Nepali family, Zander Lama feels blessed to have both Nepali and Korean genes as his grand mother belongs to Korea. He spent his childhood in Lamjung and later moved to Delhi for higher studies which eventually led him to Mumbai to pursue a career in modelling.

“My father comes from an army background and convincing my family for modelling was tough,” he recalls. He quickly adds, “I even tried to join the Air Force but fate brought me into the fashion industry.”

Zander has been living in India for the last six years and has weaved his career from scratch. He says coining a name in the fashion industry in Mumbai wasn’t a cakewalk. During his initial days, he faced heaps in breaking the stereotypes of body images and facial features, the two aspects for which he got most rejections as a newcomer in the industry.

Today, the 26-year-old has been part of the modelling pool at Lakme Fashion Week for some years now, and has walked for designers like Shantanu and Nikhil, Shivan and Naresh, Sahil Aneja, and many others.

During his recent visit to Kathmandu, the model shared glimpses and experiences of his journey with us. Excerpts:

Tell us about your childhood in Nepal…

My early years were like any kid. But looking back at it now, I do reminisce about growing up around a lot of uncles, aunts and cousins. I miss the environment of having nature around me and doing activities like fishing, farming, etc.

What prompted you to enter the fashion world?

I don’t think it was a sudden decision to enter the fashion industry but more of a gradual process: observing, learning and realising. Initially, I found it difficult to get work due to my Asian features and skinny body. People weren’t confident of my abilities. However, after several rejections, I was introduced to Varun Bahl in India who gave me my first big show at Raymond in 2015.

As far as my career evolution goes, I am glad my hard work and determination has helped me to sustain for the last six years. Each year has been different and this year winning the best male model at the India Fashion Awards would be a testament to the fact that I am evolving quite alright.

Were there any significant barriers to growing your career?

It was kind of new to have an oriental face in the Indian fashion industry during my time. Though the industry has diverse talents now, during my time the definition of a male model was restricted to a specific look or body type. But the past is past, and I am glad the industry is evolving and I am still here so I guess, barriers aren’t that bad as long as it makes you work harder.

How do you balance work and life?

Work is a part of life and I believe it’s about prioritising your daily activities. In my case, I plan my day out in bullet points and strike off each time I get one done. I think it helps in being disciplined and organised.

You have dealt with depression and anxiety issues, can you share your experiences?

I believe every human being goes through good days and bad days. My line of work as a model is stressful and sometimes depressing but I just show up well dressed because no good and bad days are permanent. You just have to keep moving forward.

Do you experience any barriers or resistance in the fashion industry?

The fashion industry in any part of the world is filled with talented and strong-minded creatives so there are quite a few No and Yes moments. Being a model with oriental features in the Indian fashion circuit can sometimes be a barrier but then again the projects I have experienced like Levis ft Royal Enfield, working with Rohit Bal, Manish Malhotra, Sabyasachi every year and so many iconic menswear designers in India, overshadows the small barriers that I might have faced.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion to me is individuality, authenticity and who you are as a person. It’s the way you dress, communicate and the perspective you have. Fashion is so much more than glamorous clothes. It’s personal and very intuitive, a reflection of who you are.

What is the best thing about what you do?

The best thing about my job is that it’s multi-faceted. My journey as a model and the experiences have groomed me in the way I reflect myself as individual and also as a citizen of any social structure I find myself in. Of course, the places, faces and travel is always fun. And it’s been a life changing journey.

Have you ever had a mentor or been inspired by someone?

I don’t think there is anyone specific or anything that I can single out. But I look up to people who have an opinion that might help me grow as an individual. And I believe inspiration is everywhere.

What in your opinion holds people from achieving their dreams?

Fear, lack of discipline and determination to go through the ups and downs.

What do you do for fun?

I think when you do what you love, everything is fun. For me, my work is fun, watching a movie, listening to music or anything that keeps me going is fun.

One thing no one should have to tolerate

Any form of discrimination; gender, religion, ethnicity, etc. You are who you are and no one should ever question you for what you represent as an individual.

Plans for your future

I believe in the saying yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. So, all I want to and continue to do is to live each day to the fullest.

What advice do you have for upcoming models?

It’s simple, be yourself. More importantly, be humble and stay healthy. And while it’s nice to feel important, it’s more important to be nice, so be respectful. 

On the cover: Nina Kant Mandal & Zander Lama
(Instagram: ninakmandal zanderlama_official)

Photographer: Supran Shrestha
(Instagram: supranphotography)

Interview & coordination: Ankita Jain
(Instagram: jain.anki)

HMUA: Shradha Maskey
(Instagram: shradha_maskey)

Style Director: Puran Joshi
(Instagram: zosii)

Wardrobe: Asha Retail
(Instagram: asharetail)

Jewellery: Himalayan beads cottage
(Instagram: himalayanbeads)

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