Women Who Barre: Suwan Tan

It all started with a simple movement three years ago that would change the way we think about fashion sustainability and consumption today. Thanks to the #WomenOfStyleTheory community, we have now sowed the seeds for a new fashion movement in Singapore and Indonesia with thousands of women sharing an Infinite Wardrobe and the experience of unlimited fashion freedom.

The Women Who series highlights the inspiring subscribers in our community with a story to tell. We met with one amazing woman who works hard in the office and help other women achieve fitness through being a barre instructor on her rest days.

Meet: Suwan Tan

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Hi Suwan! We’re inspired by your passion for your career and your love for barre. Can you share with us more about what barre is and how you started instructing?

Barre is a fitness exercise that combines ballet technique, pilates and yoga. My journey as an instructor all started when WeBarre first launched three years ago. I was introduced to the founders of WeBarre and subsequently given the opportunity to be part of the pioneer batch of instructors, probably because of my prior dance background!

Apart from ballet, I also did chinese dance, contemporary dance and hip hop. I was fortunate to spend a year at a New York dance school, after graduation.

The rest of the team at WeBarre are also of different backgrounds; some were spin or yoga instructors. Despite being different, we all come together to achieve what we are now.

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Would you say people have certain assumptions of a barre instructor?

People tend to assume we dance well, are fit, have confidence and are very nurturing. In terms of dancing, it isn’t a must but we have to be able to count to the beat, remember moves and choreography.

Being nurturing is an important skill for us. We need to ensure that everyone is working out in a safe environment so that clients or students don’t injure themselves while we challenge them. The idea is to get the best and most out of the workout.

Is being confident as an instructor the same as having public speaking skills?

When it comes to confidence, many of us achieve it through years of instructing. It is very different from public speaking. Over here, we have the music to guide us and we know exactly what to do to facilitate and guide them.

What is your favourite thing about teaching barre?

It is really nice to see the clients progress overtime and getting stronger. Having them realise that barre has helped them achieve a certain level of fitness is a source of comfort to me. I know attending classes can be stressful if they are new to barre, but we try to create an environment that is open and friendly, where are able to push themselves and improve.

 

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What would you say to those who want to try barre?

Definitely just try it! Come with an open mind. It really is for anyone at any fitness level, even if you’re not super fit. We have fundamentals and introduction classes that help get you going.

The first time will always be the hardest and scariest because you’re jumping into something you’ve never done before. But it is a great workout and it challenges you mentally too. Over time, you’ll feel the achievement and accomplishment.  The next time you go, you’ll know what to expect. You will really see the improvement whether it’s fitness level or goals for your body.

What is your take on barre as a lifestyle investment?

Well, barre is the only workout I consistently do for the past three years. The exercises helps you function better in your day to day–from stability to posture; it challenges you mentally and physically, while setting time aside to take care of yourself. Barre is safe and definitely within your limit to do so, you will get stronger and fitter over time.

It compliments my lifestyle well, especially when I’m very busy with social and work commitments. Teaching barre allows me to give time to myself so it is definitely a good lifestyle investment.

What are your thoughts on the growth of the barre community in Singapore?

We’ve definitely seen growth since the early years; WeBarre is the pioneer in this barre community and we credit our bosses who saw the vision, and made barre a possible sport in Singapore.

Personally, I think barre is popular among people because of its effectiveness. The sport does cater to a lot of different people; it is not just for dancers or people who are already fit, but also for those that are new to working out.

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We understand that apart from barre, you are working at Publicis Groupe. Can you share with us more on how your regular work week is like?

I currently support the management for the region which covers Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa, as well as supporting the finance team.

A few of my work tasks include linking up our teams across the region for pitches, putting together decks for my boss, organize strategic initiatives joint ventures and acquisitions, and help with monthly reporting for performance.

What keeps you going at work?

Knowing I am making an impact and helping stakeholders with making their lives easier keeps me going.

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As a modern working female, are there any challenges that you faced or witness on a daily basis?

Across the companies I’ve worked for I’ve been blessed to have respectful gender neutral bosses but I’ve also encountered people who are a bit condescending though it may just be a force of habit for them.

Personally, I feel that the challenge with being a woman in the workplace (especially in a leadership position) stems from the usual stereotypes labeled upon her – too aggressive if she stands up for what she thinks is right, too emotional if she is passionate, etc.

In addition, there are sacrifices that women may have to give up and the current workplace framework is not necessarily conducive for those with children. The overall workplace environment and expectations need to evolve to accommodate working mothers; it should allow ambitious women to still perform at their job while balancing family duties.

Do you have any advice to give working women?

Don’t be afraid to speak up, and be true to who you are, as long as you’re respectful, pragmatic, and smart about what you say.

The gender stereotypes will take a while before they go away and your reaction determines how you’re perceived. The more women take up leadership positions, the better it will be. It’s important to support other women along the way too.

What about tips for moms who are going back to work or already back at work?

It’s a tricky place to be because of the stigma that if you want to be a super mom, something has to give. That’s not true, but that should be your choice to make. You can double up as a career woman AND a super mom, or you can choose one over the other too.

It boils down to choosing your priorities and owning it. It could be that you need to work a little harder and put in more hours and effort than others. At times, you might have to challenge your bosses and the working environment to value you enough to give you that freedom. Prioritise what is most important to you and deliver on those responsibilities. People will respect you for it.

The workforce is ever changing and ever challenging. What tips would you share with someone who is looking to enter the workforce or create new waves at their current role?

  • Don’t rush into it too soon, think about where your interests and strengths lie and what you would enjoy before jumping in.
  • Don’t be afraid to take short stints, attachments or internship to find out more. You can afford to take time to figure out what you want to do. The environment you surround yourself in will set the way in which you work.
  • Take your time to try and always ask questions from experienced seniors who are in the industry. Knowing more would help you form an opinion. I would encourage you to take on passion projects when you’re more or less settled, don’t try everything new at once.

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You pull off Style Theory styles really well! What is your relationship with fashion?

I’m an avid shopper and I like having new clothes. I wear the clothes that I own four or five times at most. But being subscribed to Style Theory allows me to try different outfits. The best thing about Style Theory for me is that I don’t have to commit to one piece. It may seem like a commitment issue, but it is actually a more sustainable way to shop, or acquire new outfits!

How do you describe your personal style?

I love pieces that are bold; statement pieces and pieces with slight femininity. It doesn’t have to be over the top but striking enough, doesn’t have to be too tight, but have shape when worn.

Living and being in a fashion capital like New York and London for four years, I was influenced by people from different social groups and the streets. I also enjoy exhibitions with contemporary art and that translates into fashion –  geometrical shapes, colours and textures. These are important factors that affect my personal style.

Congratulations on your wedding! You tried Style Theory for your hen party. How was it?

It was great, the outfits I rented fit the island vibes!

Style Theory stands for fashion freedom and we want to encourage more women to join the movement to consume fashion more consciously. What do you think about this?

I definitely agree and stand with the brand’s sustainability for fashion. I love fashion and wearing new/different pieces, so this allows me to do so guilt free.

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Where do you find motivation in your personal life? Who and what?

A lot of motivation is internal and through my closest friends. I am quite a driven person and largely self-motivated. If I want something I will go get it and do it. External factors do help me stay motivated, sometimes I need a little bit of encouragement from my partner and friends.

How do your friends describe your personality?

They would describe me as outgoing and adventurous, sometimes crazy? I can be a little out of the ordinary in terms of career goals; taking a gap year and moving abroad to live a dancer life for a while.

They know me as loyal and friendly! I’m an extrovert, so when I’m really tired and had a long week at work, I feel rejuvenated when I’m out with people.

What is your personal philosophy?

Give your best in anything and everything you do. Always strive to do better.

When I say the best, I don’t mean the best among people, but the best version of yourself. Every day you become a better version of yourself; that is my mantra.

What are some resolutions or changes you have made recently and have still kept to it?

I am a sugar junkie, I love my ice cream and can finish a pint in one sitting. But I’ve tried to cut down a little bit because it’s better for my health. I’ve also reduced my caffeine intake. It helps me sleep better at night rather than staying up late watching Netflix.

I’ve definitely made conscious efforts to exercise more, not just barre, but actually go to classes myself.

I just got married and living with someone 24/7 is different. I am a lot more conscious of how I respond and react and I have taken on the resolution to be kinder, less impatient and more understanding.

What are some things you want to try in 2019/2020?

I definitely want to cook more! Now that I’m staying at my own place, I would definitely want to cook more often and spend more time at home to make our home a more inviting place to rest.

I want to travel more to places I’ve never been to before with my partner!

Rent Suwan’s Picks

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