A South African of Indian origin, Imraan Vagar was born on 1 September 1971 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Growing up in apartheid South Africa (with its system of racial segregation), he was required to attend a so-called ‘Indian school’. He excelled at a number of subjects, but showed a particular aptitude for Art and Speech & Drama and studied the latter at the Upstairs Theatre & Drama School (founded by his sister Saira Essa) for several years. During his school career, Imraan entered and won numerous national speech competitions, including the Tasa/Nasou National Speech Contest and completed the South African Guild Examination and Trinity College London Examination with Honours.
An acting career seemed to be on the cards and during his academic years, Imraan was often cast in leading roles in school-plays, musicals and professional theatre productions of “Oliver”, “A Man For All Seasons”, “The Diary Of Anne Frank”, “The Boyfriend” & Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”. He completed his high school education as a bursary-recipient at Woodmead, a progressive and non-racial, private boarding-school in Johannesburg – attaining the highest practical Art scores in the country that year in the Joint Matriculation Board exams. After matriculating in 1989, Imraan applied to study for a diploma in fashion design at the Natal Technikon, but his application was turned down on the basis of race. As a ‘non-white’ (M.L.Sultan) Technikon offered the same course, the law obliged him to study there instead. He would eventually pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Natal University, before launching his own fashion label in Durban.
With no formal training as a designer, Imraan opened a small design studio and began creating a range of bespoke evening, bridal and cocktail wear for a select clientele. While many South African designers at the time were taking a cue from their overseas counterparts and were replicating international trends in their collections, Imraan chose instead to celebrate his cultural heritage as a stylistic point of reference and the inspiration for his ranges. At a time when “ethnic” design was considered too parochial in South African fashion design circles, Imraan pioneered a range of distinctive eastern-inspired garments with a generous application of traditional Indian hand-embroidery, beadwork and fabrics – combining lavish eastern adornment with western silhouettes.
Soon recognized as one of South Africa’s top young fashion talents, Imraan’s trademark eastern-inspired creations have graced the catwalks of some of Africa’s most prestigious fashion events, including the:
- “J&B Rare Designers Awards”
- “July Fashion Showcase”
- “Miss South Africa” pageant
- “Miss India Universe” pageant
- M-Net’s “Face of Africa” international model search
In addition to major fashion events, Imraan has also applied his talents to designing costumes for a season of the Ballet at Durban’s Playhouse. He has also worked as an image-consultant, conducting workshops aimed at empowering men and women by helping them to look the part in the workplace. In his capacity as a designer, Imraan has sat on the judging panel of several fashion and beauty events, including the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards.
In a twist of fate, a career in television beckoned and after a year of trying to juggle his new role as a jet-setting TV anchor for a prime-time TV show and the demands of running a fashion-studio, Imraan reluctantly retired from fashion in 1998 to pursue a full-time career in broadcasting. Imraan made his debut as a television anchor-presenter for the prime-time show called “Chill Out” on SABC1. The magazine programme, which was co-conceived by Imraan, encompassed all aspects of contemporary South African lifestyle with cosmopolitan flair. Imraan then went on to anchor the acclaimed SABC3 lifestyle series “In Style”. The glamorous magazine programme earned Imraan a reputation as one of South Africa’s most affable and debonair celebrities. He has been voted:
- “Man of the Year” (Most Stylish) – “GQ” Magazine.
- One of the top 100 “Sexiest Men in the World” by “Femina” magazine
- “Cosmopolitan” magazine’s “Man of the Month”
- “Rooi Rose” magazine’s top 10 “Swymelmanne” (“Men to swoon over”)
- One of South Africa’s sexiest male celebrities by gay website “Mambaonline”
- One of the Top 10 “Best Dressed Men of The Year 2007” – “GQ” Magazine
Imraan’s other television appearances include:
- The “Miss South Africa” Pageant (2000) on SABC 3 (Host)
- The “Community Builder Awards”, a live humanitarian awards ceremony on SABC 1 (Host)
- “Success @ Seven” on M-Net and e-TV (Host)
- “South African Film & Television Awards” (Celebrity Guest Presenter)
In the spring of 2000, Imraan focused his creative energy on “Eastern Mosaic” on SABC 1. With dwindling ratings and nil advertising revenues, the show, which had been running for over a decade, was in desperate need of a dramatic makeover if it was to stay on air. As a member of “Red Carpet Productions”, Imraan’s involvement with “Eastern Mosaic” goes beyond merely presenting the show – his creative impetus has driven the new incarnation of “Eastern Mosaic”. As creative director, he took on the task of generating a fresh ‘new look’ for the show, developing a new format, updating its content to make it more contemporary and relevant, designing new studio sets and graphics, and injecting the show with a more youthful presentation style. Imraan is passionate about “Eastern Mosaic” and believes strongly in the show’s ongoing relevance in present day South Africa.
In 2004, Imraan was a NRI (Non-Resident Indian) panelist at a roundtable discussion on “Ethnic Media” at the Pravasi Bharathiya Divas (an annual event organized by the Government of India to celebrate the achievements of the Indian Diaspora) in New Delhi, where he presented a paper highlighting the role of ethnic media in the transition to democracy in the post-apartheid era. He explained how ethnic media has been able to counter the stereotyping of minority communities since the days when Mahatma Gandhi started the Indian Opinion in 1903 in South Africa.
In 2005, Imraan collaborated with the David Gresham Record Company to produce a compilation CD of world and lounge music called “Eastern Mosaic presents Monsoon Lounge” – inspired by the style and content of the weekly show. “Eastern Mosaic” celebrated 13 years on air in 2013 and has twice been nominated for a “Golden Horn” at the South African Film And Television Awards in the category of “Best Magazine Programme” and won a SAIFTA (South Africa India Film & Television Award) for “Best Lifestyle Show” in 2013.
Around the same time Imraan announced his departure as the show’s anchor to concentrate his efforts on other television projects, including producing and directing an Afrikaans food series, “Geure Uit Die Vallei”, currently on SABC2.
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