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The Conversation Starter: Mae Tan On Tough Topics And Raising Awareness

The Conversation Starter: Mae Tan On Tough Topics And Raising Awareness

Mae Tan, August 2020 Cover Story

At some point, I felt a need to talk about things I felt were important to me, or that I felt people should pay more attention to. With the numbers comes a certain responsibility. It tends to be a little bit scary because this is in the public eye, but I always tell myself my intention of why I’m speaking out beats anything that people want to assume of me. I have to practise what I preach: If I want to be positive about it, then I can’t let negativity take me down. 

Mae Tan, August 2020 Cover Story
Jacket, skirt, and heels, $1,450, by CHANEL. B.zero1 Rock rose gold earrings with black ceramic, $3,290, B.zero1 Rock rose gold ring with ceramic, $3,120, B.zero1 Rock yellow gold ring with diamonds, $10,050, by BVLGARI Photo: Joel Low

My concern for the environment was something that I spoke out on first, because I love kids. So to know that my kids, or the children in the future, cannot experience the same kind of nature — or the same kind of world — that we live in, is just baffling to me. Can you imagine if your grandchildren grow up not knowing what a forest or an ocean is, not seeing corals or fishes or certain species? It sounds bizarre to me because I like nature so much. Once I found the courage to do it, then that was the first thing I knew that I felt people needed to start paying attention to, because it’s bigger than you and me. 

Apart from speaking about it, I organised something with Paul Foster during Singapore Social, and then I worked with Zero Waste Singapore to help people do bagging in FairPrice. What I took away from it is there are a lot more people who care about it than you think — but there’s also a lot of people who don’t. I think people are open to actually understanding what’s going on. We just need to try. So that’s why I feel with every small step, there’s some progress. 

LEFT: Jacket, $6,590, by FENDI. B.zero1 Rock rose gold earrings with black ceramic, $3,290, B.zero1 Rock rose gold ring with black ceramic, $2,650, B.zero 1 Rock yellow gold ring with diamonds, $10,050, and B.zero1 yellow gold bracelet with diamonds, $20,400, by BVLGARI. Other jewellery, Mae’s own. RIGHT: Bodysuit, $2,050, jumpsuit, $7,840, and heels, $1,630, by BOTTEGA VENETA. B.zero 1 Rock rose gold earrings with black ceramic, $3,290, and B.zero1 Rock rose gold ring with black ceramic, $2,650 by BVLGARI

As much as I love fashion, a lot of the time I feel like that’s a moral seesaw for me. I know how much waste the industry produces, but I love fashion and I can’t deny it. So what I try to do is just to minimise whatever I can, like not buying from mass produced brands and instead focusing on brands that pay attention to quality and how their clothes are made.

I think a lot of people think that you have to be somebody to make an impact, but the thing is that if you change something, that’s really the impact in itself. What matters is whether you are doing it, and you will be surprised with how you feel about what you’ve done. It’s not easy, and even I’m still struggling every single day with, ‘Do you need this? Do you not need it?’

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I want to be a person who can give a different perspective to the majority of people out there, and I want people to come to my page and have conversations about different things.

Mae Tan

I want to be a person who can give a different perspective to the majority of people out there, and I want people to come to my page and have conversations about different things. I have this hashtag on Instagram, called #SomethingToThinkAbout, where I pose “life questions” to my followers to try and get them to think about their own lives. I want that interaction, and I hope that I can be someone who sparks conversation in my community.

Pick up a copy of ELLE Singapore’s August 2020 issue out now on select newsstands and bookstores. Check out a sneak preview of our latest issue here.


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