Meet Vanessa Yeo Barger: VP of Brand for Love, Bonito and mum of two. Here she shares her secrets to staying in style and on top of her game, unicorns and all.
Vanessa Yeo Barger is one of those mums who make motherhood look good. Literally. Even her WFH outfits scream confidence. Which is apt, we think, for the VP of Brand for one of Singapore’s most popular fashion brands. You won’t find her in ratty old sweats — for Vanessa, wearing what she loves gives her the confidence to power through the day — white oversized shirts, linen, poplin… it’s all part of her secret arsenal to lady boss and mum life. Yes, while she’s shattering glass ceilings at work, she’s also waxing lyrical about unicorns to her two daughters, Sienna and Isla.
Here, we ask Vanessa about how she’s tackling motherhood, what being a working mum is like, and maintaining one’s sense of style and fashion through it all.
Hi Vanessa, tell us more about Sienna and Isla! What are they like?
They are polar opposites but they complement each other. Maybe (probably) it’s my influence from working in fashion, but Sienna will not leave the house without at least three core bling accessories which regularly includes a crown of sorts. Isla is experimental with her style and can be spotted at her weekly football lessons in a full-on tulle princess frock while scoring a goal.
We say Sienna and my husband are from the House of Long Faces, with more “chilled out vibes” and a calming presence. Isla and I are the House of Apple Faces and are feisty firecrackers who love a challenge!
What’s it like, being a mum of two?
I really wouldn’t have it any other way! I’ve a sister with a similar age gap as well and I love witnessing the parallels and the close sisterhood they are forging. It’s strange but my husband and I never gave ourselves a number to how many kids we want. But landing at two has been perfect!
I never realised just how self-centred I was till I became a mother! It still baffles me how the toughest decision I’d have to make, pre-kids, was where to go for dinner and drinks. Becoming a mother is like getting a massive system upgrade and I really do feel I am the best version of myself as a mother.
Walk us through what a typical day looks like for you…
A huge must-do for me is to start my day with a workout! My mantra is five minutes is better than no minutes. Even if it is a couple of squats and a short stretch, this commitment gives me so much energy to get through the day.
For over a year now I have been gratefully working-from-home and have a little routine where I get my sweat in, and drop my kids off at preschool across the road. I like the idea of signalling the start to the workday by dressing for it – working from home has done nothing to quash my love of dressing up! I’ve also found the best fuss-free beauty brand in Trinny London, and their wonderful pots of wearable colours.
The best part of the day has to be the evening when laptops are shut and we have our dinner as a family. I recently acquired the Bruno Oval Hotplate which has been great fun for the kids to have their meal bubbling away on the dining table. If it is a Friday, there is a tipple or two….or three.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Well there are two things: the first for my general love of moisturising and the other for my heart – Lucas PaPaw Ointment… I must have over 10 tubes in various bags and drawers. I slather that on my lips and skin like it’s going out of fashion – I dab it everywhere! The other is cuddles with the family! Nothing like a cuddle to sort your heart out…
Do you consider yourself a hands-on parent?
I’m a really hands-on parent and so is my husband. I really believe in investing time, effort and interest in all the areas of our girls’ lives. This means having chats about their interests (especially when it’s about unicorns and the universe!), being their cheerleaders in their chosen activities and being a shoulder to cry on when they are going through a rough time at play or with friends.
I don’t believe you can spoil your child by being there for them. My love language is acts of service, and you can see that comes through with my girls.
What happens when you lose it?
The most important thing to do is to be kind to yourself as a parent and acknowledge the reaction you had wasn’t great but it has happened. I highly recommend apologising to your child if you lost it at them, and take the time to explain why and hear how they felt about it.
Tell us more about being a VP of Brand at Love, Bonito. What do you love about it?
I am the strategic and creative force behind the brand’s campaigns, creative services, social media, community experiences and communications. As chief storyteller, I work with my teams to create brand stories that are beautiful and thoughtful, stories that are able to resonate and inspire, and to support Love, Bonito’s mission as the most thoughtful brand for the everyday Asian woman.
What makes me most fulfilled is that Love, Bonito is not just a fashion brand – we are purpose-driven and my daily motivation is to empower women! It is also the only company I have been with that has over 70% of women in STEM and leadership roles. It’s been absolutely amazing and refreshing! I also feel extremely privileged to lead a team of wonderful young women who I have the opportunity to learn from and hear of their life experiences (and about TikTok!).
Is there anything you feel like you’re compromising on when it comes to parenting and working at the same time?
Over the years, I have worked hard to reframe the way I divide my time up. The shift I have taken to the work-life-balance mindset is to look at my life holistically now where work, play and family all sit on the same line and I don’t rank the importance of one over the other. They coexist. I find this shift has made me a better person for everyone in my life because I’ve given myself control and space over how I use my time, and comfort that I will fail on occasion,. And that’s ok, because it’s no longer a competition between my work life and my parenting!
My children are my source of inspiration (the future is female!) and they are thrilled and proud to see mummy-in-action when they pop by the office. It is important for me to explain that mummy likes her work and I am doing it for myself! It’s also very important for them to know I would drop what I am doing in a heartbeat because I love spending time with them!
Thanks so much, Vanessa!
While we all can agree that motherhood is a career — spanning a mastery of art, science and human relationships — we love that Vanessa is rocking every aspect of it. “I’m grateful to take lessons from home to work and lessons from work back home. The biggest practice of which is to put people first, in my life and work,” she adds. And to that, we raise another glass of wine…