Rebel With A Cause: Nazreem Musa On Being Unapologetically Himself

Meet the local fashion risk-takers championing freedom of self-expression, standing in the vanguard of the IDGAF war.
YUAN, Flower Top, Dress (worn as skirt) TALENT’S OWN, Top

NAZREEM MUSA, as interviewed by GRAZIA MALAYSIA Editor-In-Chief, IAN LOH

If you’re one of Nazreem Musa’s 148,000 followers on Instagram, you’d already know what he’s famous for. He’s already an established name in the local fashion industry with his impeccable style, his daring attitude to dress in gender-fluid costumes and his collection of luxury pieces. While men wearing skirts are not so uncommon now—especially in the Western parts of the world—Malaysians can still be slightly conservative. Nazreem pays no mind to the haters and continues strutting on with his unapologetic style, making him the perfect candidate for our fashion risk-taker series. GRAZIA Malaysia’s editor-in-chief, Ian Loh, speaks to Nazreem on his fashion endeavours and his evolving style phases.

IAN LOH (IL): When did you know that fashion was your thing?
NAZREEM MUSA (NM): There was no specific moment when I got interested in fashion. I felt like I had always been introduced to it by, you know, probably my mother shopping somewhere.

IL: So, how was your experience studying in Paris?
NM: It was fun, but it was when I realised that I was not into fashion design. I was just into fashion history, I was into fashion styling. The fashion studies itself was just to show what interest you are in. I thought I was into fashion designing, but that was not it. I can do it, but it’s not for me.

IL: Would you say dressing in a gender-fluid fashion, especially in Malaysia, is very high risk and low return?
NM: I felt like that was the case 10 years ago. People didn’t really understand what they saw, but they liked it. I felt like the feedback was good even though they didn’t really understand. But now with Hollywood and celebrities like Harry Styles making gender-fluid dressing a thing, I feel like finally, people recognise what I actually am.

IL: How does it feel like dressing that way here in Malaysia?
NM: Okay, the thing is I do have boundaries. There are certain things I wouldn’t wear. Clothes that are shaped like a woman—

IL: Like corsets?
NM: I do wear corsets! But I would not wear anything with breasts, or anything that would change my body shape. In terms of fashion, if I think I can work it, I’d wear it. The way I cross-dress is not exactly to look like a woman. If I think a man can pull it off, I’d wear it.

IL: Was there a look that was like a turning point for you? One that makes people think of you as a fashion influencer?
NM: Out of all the things I’ve done in the past?

IL: Maybe consciously or subconsciously? When was the turning point for you that made you realise, “Oh, people are seeing me differently now”?
NM: …I really don’t know. I really can’t say! I feel like every year there’s always something different. If you ask me like, the first time, probably back in 2016 or 2017 when I started becoming more daring. I started playing with dreadlocks. Yeah, maybe somewhere around that, in my late 20s. When I was younger, it was very generic, like Birkins, a lot of Indonesian-inspired styles.

IL: But do you think like, there was a kind of rebellious streak in you? Because someone said that you can’t do this and then you’re gonna define ways and I’m gonna show you.
NM: I want to say that, but to be very honest with you, growing up, my mother or my family never said to me, “Don’t wear that.” or “That’s weird.” I’ve always had support, and some of my friends supported me as well. I’ve never had a rebellious phase. I never went through that whole, I’m going to prove you wrong! Everything I wear, people seem to like! (laughs) As long as it’s not too much. Like I said earlier, as long as it’s not a bra or changing the whole body shape.

IL: What is the craziest piece in your closet?
NM: The ones that I really cherish the most are from Alexander McQueen before he passed away. My vintage Chanel, the runway pieces from back in like the early 90s that were passed down from my mom. Back then, the quality of luxury was so good. Everything was so high-end you know? But now as luxury gets more expensive, yeah…that’s why I try find vintage pieces instead.

IL: I was watching your Instagram Stories when you went to Paris, and I really liked the stores and brands you picked. It isn’t necessarily just because it suits you, but you know what the investment pieces are, and which ones will last. It’s not just the trendy pieces.
NM: I’ve had my share of trendy times. Now I go for more classics, or really statement pieces that you know will be worth in the future.


This article was first published in the print edition of Grazia Malaysia September 2023.