The Eco-Conscious Style Influencer

Multi-hyphenate Mae Tan shares her journey from fashion consumer to being more environmentally thoughtful, and how she hopes to inspire others to do the same.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Oft cited for her keen fashion sense, Mae Tan is known for many things: She’s the creative consultant for hip local clothing boutique Surrender, a fashion influencer with 107K followers on Instagram (@marxmae), and a TV personality who starred in Netflix series Singapore Social (2019).

A few years ago, the 25-year-old also embarked on an eco-conscious journey. Her most recent project: teaming up with online luxury reselling platform Vestiaire Collective to help launch its Wardrobe Reality Check Challenge in April this year. Mae was one of five inspiring women who are passionate about sustainable fashion (including actress and social entrepreneur Lily Cole, models Arizona Muse and Cara G McIlroy, and co-founder of Future Earth Steph Shep) and tasked to re-evaluate their own wardrobes to purge items and sell on the platform.

This comes hot off the heels of her many projects to spread the word, including a plastic-awareness event she hosted with Paul Foster in conjunction with Plastikophobia (an immersive art installation made from 18,000 plastic cups) at the Sustainable Singapore Gallery in Marina Barrage in 2019.

Through her journey from a fashion consumer to an eco-conscious individual, she shares the reason for this 180-degree turn and her thoughts on sustainable fashion.

A passion for sustainability

“I’ve come to realise that as a fashion consumer, the more I consume for instant gratification, the greater the negative impact I have on the environment. I first became more aware of this in 2018. Destroying the environment would deprive future generations of the joys of the outside world. Imagine if the beaches, trees and animals were wiped from your memory; it would be devastating to grow up not experiencing these things.

So I began changing my habits, starting with the simple act of rejecting plastic bags. Since then, I have been making incremental changes towards leading a more conscious lifestyle, such as using biodegradable trash bags and bringing my own bottle out.”

Circular fashion as the way forward

“The fashion industry produces a lot of waste, that’s why I think circular fashion (where items are kept in use for as long as possible, through reusing, recycling etc) is the only way we can sustain it. Platforms like Vestiaire Collective help to take the lead in reshaping the perspectives of consumers, allowing them to consider their environmental impact when it comes to over-consumption and fast fashion. This will help more people realise that participating in the circular fashion economy is not difficult – there are many trusted options right now for people to recycle or resell pre-owned pieces, as well as to purchase pre-loved items.”

Rethink your shopping habits

“It helps to ask yourself three questions before making a purchase: One, would it still be chic five years from now? Two, do I have existing pieces to match it with? And three, are the quality, cut and fit timeless? Doing so can help to minimise unnecessary purchases, which in turn reduces the environmental impact.”

You can be both fashionable and sustainable

“A good way to do both is to shop responsibly and upkeep an edited wardrobe of timeless classics. Invest in vintage or preloved pieces that will make a statement when paired with your staples. ”

Detox your wardrobe periodically

“I allocate a good amount of time to evaluate the items that I enjoy the most, and stop hoarding things that I do not wear enough, so that my wardrobe is kept fresh. I keep versatile pieces that either best express my style, or can be paired nicely with existing items. The Marie Kondo way of figuring out whether the item sparks joy or not really helped me out on this.”

Learn to let go

“The biggest challenge for me is saying ‘bye’ to pieces I have loved previously. Letting go is never easy! But knowing that someone else might have a better use out of the item is definitely better than letting it sit in my closet.”

Resell rather than donate clothes

“I try not to donate clothes because a lot of them end up being tossed. Also, many poorer countries have more than enough clean clothes, and need funds for food and water instead. For reselling, Vestiaire Collective, Depop and Carousell are my go-tos. I use the money I make from these sales to donate to my selected charities.”

Doing good and inspiring others

“I’m a volunteer with non-profit organisations like Zero Waste Singapore (which aims to minimise waste and promote recycling), helping to spread the word through via road shows and campaigns. Another project that’s close to my heart is the Contentment Foundation, a non-profit organisation that offers child and adult well-being curricula to schools globally. My work with the organisation seeks to raise awareness about mental wellness and rallying like-minded donors for the cause.

I actively share my journey on Instagram, hoping that I can inform and inspire others to start making these little conscious decisions together. ”

“Shop responsibly and upkeep an edited wardrobe of timeless classics.” 
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Mae believes that circular fashion is the way forward, and she’s setting an example by selling pieces from her closet on Vestiaire Collective, including:
1. Miu Miu denim jumpsuit
2. Rokh cotton shirt
3. JW Anderson x Converse canvas sneakers
4. Off-White jersey dress 
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Last year, she partnered with actor/host Paul Foster to raise awareness of plastic consumption at the Sustainable Singapore Gallery in Marina Barrage.