#TrueCalling: Viola Tan

IN COLLABORATION WITH HUAWEI,
featuring photos shot/edited on the new Huawei P10, co-engineered with Leica.

Why do we do what we do? What is it that drives us, day after day, to pour our time, effort, and our heart and soul into the art, the beauty, the solutions and magic we create?

We pursue our dreams and chase them into our reality not because it is the most natural thing to do, or the easier way to live. Quite the contrary. It is hard work, dedication (sometimes to the point of obsession — do we see a few nods?), and many have described it to be a lonely journey. So why do we do what we do? Because, quite simply, when all is said and done, it gives us joy and feeds our life’s purpose. And hopefully, by doing what we do, we’d be spreading a little of that joy, and a little light to the people around us and, who knows, the rest of the world.

In a new seven-part series entitled #TrueCalling, we’ve partnered up with Huawei to bring you the stories of seven women — creators, doers and, yes, dreamers — to find out what makes them tick. How has whipping up a new recipe, designing clothes, or capturing moments from around the world, for example, brought them happiness? What interesting lessons, people and ideas have they encountered along the way? We’re going to give you a glimpse into their worlds through our lens.

Always look CONFIDENT —
even on days when you don’t feel it.

As a child, Viola Tan wished she would grow up to be either a lawyer or a novelist. In her young mind, she thought those career choices would allow her to help people. Maybe life doesn’t always give you what you want, but it does have a knack for handing you exactly what you need. At 34, the adult Viola writes neither a novel (yet) nor affidavits for a living, but she is helping people. Love, Bonito, a fashion e-commerce business she co-founded in 2006 with her sister Velda (who has gone on to launch her own label) and Rachel Lim, is passionate about empowering and inspiring women. In fact, their mission statement is “Empowering confidence through style”. If you have ever met Viola and had a conversation with her, there’s a pretty good chance she’d have told you

real-life stories of women who have found not only style and confidence, but also comfort and freedom in LB clothes to be better versions of themselves. These stories, she says, both move her and drive her. “They are what keep us going.”

Never underestimate the power of a good outfit, people. And nicely-shaped eyebrows — a lesson Viola learned through thick and thin (well, mostly thin). As the statuesque and soft-spoken entrepreneur takes us on a tour of the Love, Bonito office, she also dishes out some advice on achieving the elusive style/comfort balance, and ruminates on one of life’s biggest questions: Purpose.

If you were to sum up Viola Tan in one word, what would it be?
Viola Tan:  That’s a tough one… I had a chat with Rachel about this. She describes me as being big-hearted. So that’s one word. At interviews, she has, on a number of occasions, called me a rock because the company and people I come in contact with look to me to solve their problems. At home, I am also the big sister, so I’d like to think that my sisters have always been able to depend on me, too.

A sage once said that our purpose in life is to find our purpose. Have you found yours?
VT: Allow me to share with you one of my favourite quotes: “Purpose is a force that drives you, like a warrior, a trail blazer. Purpose is authentic. Purpose makes you feel alive and like a part of something bigger. It gives you goose bumps, a lump in your throat.

DON’T APOLOGISE
FOR WHO YOU ARE.

It helps you move beyond success to a satisfaction so deep it can only come from knowing that the work you do can, and will, change the world.”

I don’t want to be defined by a single purpose. I thrive on fresh challenges — that’s what gets me out of bed every morning. I want to always feel those goose bumps with everything I set my heart and mind on conquering. 

As a child, what did you wish you would grow up to be?
VT: I wanted to be a lawyer or a novelist

because both careers would allow me to reach out and help people in different ways.

Language has also always fascinated me, which was why I read English and Literature at university. Instead of writing, I’m now sharing parts of my journey as an entrepreneur through different mediums — which is fulfilling as well. Who knows, maybe years down the road, when I will have collected enough stories and lessons from my life, I might put them down in a book that I can, hopefully, use to inspire others.

Complete the sentence: I am happiest when…
VT: … I am with my grandmother. She took care of me when I was young, and she will always be my favourite person. 

What do you do when in need of a quick boost of confidence?
VT: Utter a silent prayer or turn to my closest 

You will NEVER see me in a bodycon dress and NOT BREATHING.

and dearest friends for encouragement and affirmation.

What is your most regrettable fashion faux pas?
VT: Over-trimming my eyebrows! In hindsight, I learnt how important it is to have nicely shaped brows that frame your face. With good brows, you can actually leave the house without make-up feeling pretty good. 

As a busy working woman, how do you balance comfort and style in your dressing? We all want to feel as good as we look, and vice versa. Is that possible to achieve?
VT: Definitely. I am a firm believer of comfort and style. I don’t compromise, so you will never see me in a bodycon dress and not breathing the whole time I’m out. You will also never see me in heels on a normal day. Helena Rubinstein got it right: “There are no ugly women, just lazy ones.” If you’re disciplined, have good time management and plan well ahead, there should

be no need to compromise.

To sum up, here are two easy steps: (1) Wear flats. There are plenty of great options these days, and you think better and clearer if your feet aren’t crying out for relief. (2) Plan ahead. With a good range of separates, a colour-organised wardrobe, and a habit of laying out your outfits in advance, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to achieve both comfort and style.

What’s the best style advice you’ve ever received?
VT: I can’t remember the exact words but someone once said to me: “Always look confident — even on days when you don’t feel it.” I think this advice has been particularly useful especially on days when I feel low, insecure and extremely self-conscious. It has also helped me on countless public-speaking occasions where I was a ball of nerves, yet people would come up to me afterwards to tell me “well done!” or “you looked so poised and confident!” 

In style and in life, your Top 3 golden rules are:
VT: I have a few go-tos. From Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” I believe one must experiment — and not be afraid of failure or dead ends — to progress.

Another one is from George Bernard Shaw: “All progress depends on the unreasonable man.” I don’t believe you must to adapt existing ways of doing things, or accept the rules as they are. With courage, you can always change the status quo. Don’t apologise for who you are. Unreasonable people change the world. 

Finally, the moment you start to believe in the potential and power within you rather than fear what’s against you, you will begin to push the limits of what’s possible for your life. So keep experimenting, pushing boundaries, stepping out of comfort zones and moving forward. Most importantly, love what you do. 

You think BETTER and clearer if your FEET aren’t crying out for RELIEF.

PHOTOGRAPHY & ART DIRECTION  //  Karman Tse
Featuring photos shot/edited on Huawei P10, co-engineered with Leica.

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