How a 62-Year-Old Fashion Exec Became a TikTok Star

Victoria's Secret and Glossier just can't get enough of Gym Tan

Over the last 30 years, Gym Tan has held big jobs in the fashion industry, working as a C-suite executive in Asia for brands like Esprit and DKNY. These days, the Singaporean who now lives in the San Francisco area shares her love for fashion with a TikTok audience of more than 150,000 followers.

"This has now because my full-time job, and it's lucrative," says Tan, whose username is @californiaistoocasual on TikTok.

Tan's 23-year-old daughter Mya initially urged her mother onto the app. Tan wasn't so sure at first. She had always worked behind-the-scenes in fashion. 

Then there was her age. But Mya persisted. "My daughter said, 'People love older people on TikTok like they love their grandparents,'" recounts Tan, who is 62.

So, she started out in December 2021 by sharing posts featuring her outfit for the day. 

"In three weeks, I had 10,000 followers," Tan says. Even her daughter, who had been so encouraging, was surprised by how fast the audience grew.

Tan's appeal stems in large part from her positivity. "I'm trying to show that it doesn't cost a lot of money to dress well," she says. "I have very expensive clothes, but I also wear H&M. I have a very youthful approach to dressing, and I think that comes across."

Her audience consists mainly of twentysomethings "because they're the ones on TikTok. But I am surprised they are so supportive," Tan says. "Most of the comments I get from them are, 'I want to be like you when I grow up,' or 'I want my mom to see how you dress, because I want my mom to look like you.' Things like that."

The creator also enjoys a following of women in their 50s, 60s and 70s. "That's because I'm trying to tell a story about not being afraid of aging," says Tan. To that point, her mantra is "style has no age."

Mya often appears in her mom's videos, and the pair wear matching outfits. "We are 40 years apart, and we're able to look good in exactly the same item. That's very impactful. I think that’s very powerful for women of both demographics," Tan says.

Major brands have taken notice, and Tan's content has expanded to include makeup, skincare and more. "I don't come across as very sales-y. I think that resonates for brands."

She also believes it's smart for younger brands to seek out older spokespeople. "It gives the brand longevity. It's not a throwaway brand anymore if someone older can still wear it," she says.

Tan's recent projects include a campaign for Victoria's Secret, though it's "not a brand that you would immediately associate with me," she says. "I'm not in that sexy space. But they came to me and said, 'We would like to work with you for Valentine’s Day, and here's the products you can choose from.'"

@californiaistoocasual Thrilled being part of Victoria’s Secret Valentine Day Campaign and sharing our love story @Victoria’s Secret #vspartner #pajamatime #valentinesday #lovestory #loveyou #couples ♬ Am I The Same Girl - Barbara Acklin

She adored the company's pajamas and fuzzy bedroom slippers, and the holiday sparked an idea. "I went back to them and I said, 'Valentine’s Day happens to be the day that my husband proposed to me. I'd like to have my husband in the video. I think it would make sense if we approached it this way.'"

A project for Glossier also features Mya. Released last fall, the slick winter-themed promo for the brand's limited-edition Swiss Miss Balm Dotcom was shot in New York City by photographer David Brandon Geeting.

@californiaistoocasual Mature model coming through! So much fun shooting this @Glossier campaign with my daughter. Had to share it here! Once again proving that age is just a number and you can start a new career anytime in your life! #mommydaughter #ageisjustanumber #nevergiveup #keeptryingnewthings #models #momsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Gym Tan

"I've done campaigns before—these global campaigns with these big photographers, and I've been the one with the styling bag,” Tan says. "So it was really fun to be on the other side."

Creators is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about Creators, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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