Photography by Joel Low
Styling by Evon Chng
All jewellery from Tiffany and Co.
Who are you? That question may stump most people, but not Mae Tan. The cover girl of our new Individuality issue has always been ahead of the curve, whether as the creative heart of local multi-label boutique, Surrender, or as the style star adopting trends before you see them on Instagram.
Being different, standing out — it's all in Mae's DNA. In this exclusive interview, she reveals how she found herself, how fashion and Instagram are worthy tools of self-expression, and why you'll never catch her trying to become someone else.
How would you describe yourself?
I just came back from Bhutan and through trying to find myself on that trip, my answer is a little different from how I would have normally answered it. I feel like a pillar of strength when I am with my friends. I want to be there for people. I consider myself a people pleaser. I love making people happy and seeing them reach their full potential. I guess I would say that I am a person who has a lot of love to give!
How would you define your style?
A lot of the time, my style can be quite out there. A big reason why is because I want to try things differently. I like pieces that spark a conversation. I like the fact that clothes can do that. You can have something on you and people go, “Wow! Where is that from?” or “Oh, I love how you styled that.” That unexpected feeling when it comes to styling, when I am dressing up for events or when I am putting an outfit together – that’s what defines my style. I think about how I can leave an impression.
What are your thoughts on the power of style?
I like thinking about what it means to put something on yourself, or just being conscious about the value of a piece of clothing and where it comes from. If clothing is an expression to who you are, then what are you expressing? Style is a very interesting tool for me. Like, on days when I need a little confidence boost, I’d wear a blazer. I also think that now, people are always watching what everyone else is wearing, so it’s important to know what your voice stands for.
What is your favourite thing about what you do?
I think my favourite thing is that I get to create things that inspire me. I am in a position to change minds or make impressions to get people thinking about things. That’s the beauty of what I do.
Was creating things something you always saw yourself doing?
I mean, I was never academically inclined. I was never a kid who could study or pay attention to books or any of that. So I naturally gravitated towards doing art, towards being creative.
How did you get started on Instagram?
My Instagram definitely started from me wanting to do something on my own, to not be tied to the idea of my family or what they were doing. I wanted to be my own entity and to create something for myself, so I created @marxmae. It was a very nice outlet for me to express myself in creative ways because I am not good with words. I’ve wanted to express myself with images even before Instagram, but no one really understood that. That was what it was like for me when I started out. Now, I try to be a positive voice. What do I stand for? What am I using this voice for? That’s why I am very careful with what I say online.
How did you come up with the username, @marxmae?
When I was 12, my friend just came up with the name and I thought it was cute, so I used it. It didn’t really mean much until I thought about the idea of Marxism, which, just like Dadaism, was about breaking social norms. That’s how I feel about what I’m trying to do.
Does social media ever get to your head?
There are a lot of times when I fell into that whole Instagram trap of feeling that I’m not good enough and thinking this is how I want to look like, this how I want to be. Then I realized that we are all born differently and there’s no way there can be two of the same person in the world. Individuality is way more interesting than being another carbon copy.
Hair Jun Loke using Kevin Murphy
Makeup Manisa Tan / PaletteInc using Clé de Peau Beauté
Photography assistant Alfie Pan
Styling assistant Carmen Huang
All Tiffany and Co. jewellery on Mae, worn throughout:
Tiffany T Two single bracelet in gold worn as choker
Tiffany T Two circle pendant in gold with diamonds
Tiffany T Two pendant in 18k rose gold with diamonds
Tiffany T true narrow ring in 18k gold
Tiffany T True wide ring in 18k gold
Tiffany True engagement rings in 18k gold with a fancy yellow diamond and in platinum with a white diamond
Tiffany T True bracelets in 18k gold and 18k rose gold
Tiffany T square bracelet in 18k rose gold with pave diamonds
Tiffany T Two hinged bangle in 18k gold with diamonds
Tiffany T hinged wrap bracelet in 18k gold with diamonds.