There are your standard buff, muscular male models, and then there are the slender, near-waif like ones employed by modern luxury fashion brands.
But Nicholas Tan is a different proposition altogether, even as he holds the honour of being the first Singaporean – and first Southeast Asian – to ever model for a high-end European label.
The 24-year-old national swimmer appears in leading Italian house Dolce & Gabbana’s Spring/Summer 2014 look-book and online campaign, despite having only recently cut his teeth in modeling.
It is an accomplishment that Tan, a 2007 Southeast Asia Games gold-medallist, attributed to his “sporting background and healthy image”.
D&G is also no stranger to athletes, having worked with Italian swimmers in 2009 and footballer Lionel Messi along with China badminton icon Lin Dan last year.
“I believe the D&G man is a classically handsome gentleman, and not the typical skinny male guy,” said Tan.
Man of many hats
A Raffles alumnus through secondary school and junior college, Tan first joined the Singapore national team when he was 15.
Highlights of his nine-year career include winning the 4 x 100m freestyle relay at the 2007 SEA Games, participating at the 2010 Asian Games, and once holding the national 50m butterfly record.
But his 1.85m-tall frame and easy looks didn’t escape talent scouts for long and in early 2012, he scored his first features in local magazines like August Man and Men’s Folio.
“I never really modeled professionally, just a couple of shoots here and there,” said Tan, adding that each opportunity has helped improve his fashion sense.
“I used to dress very basic – T-shirt, shorts, slippers. These shoots definitely improved my style and helped me in the real world!” he said.
Tan then landed the D&G gig in May last year, while studying at Harvard University for a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Armed with such an illustrious mark on his resume, he is looking to further unleash his creative side by venturing into the entertainment industry – and has been working on his Mandarin and taking dance lessons since he graduated early this year.
“Stay tuned” was all Tan could offer when asked for more details, but he did reveal plans to continue swimming regularly in hopes of competing at the 2015 SEA Games held here in Singapore.
“I will balance my schedule such that I have time to still train. I still love swimming,” he said.
His teammates, for one, have taken to being in the company of a now world-famous model.
“They are proud of me for representing all swimmers, and also for representing Singapore on the global stage,” said Tan. “Whenever we take Instagram pictures, I get to teach them how to pose!”