Under The Influence: Fanny Tsai
Under The Influence asks entrepreneurs quick-fire questions to learn more about the people behind the business news headlines.
Generation T honouree Fanny Tsai is the founder of Taiwanese lifestyle brand Weng Collection. She’s a working mother with two businesses, a fizzing social life and a serious travel addiction.
Tsai, who started her fashion career in the retail industry in the US, is now best known for her achievements with Weng Collection, a lifestyle brand whose jewellery line, byFanny, stands out for its dazzling diamond pieces and champagne-inspired rings.
We talk to Tsai about her definition of success, life lessons, and the worst job she's ever had.
What’s the last book you read?
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don’t by Jim Collins. I found it really inspirational, especially for people trying to find a balance between work and life. Sometimes our schedules are so hectic and I think people forget to pause and just look around and see what we have right now. You need to learn how to prioritise what’s important, rather than just trying to do everything at once. So the book just really helps, especially for me as a working mother.
Which social media platforms do you use frequently?
Personally, Instagram and Facebook. Although Instagram isn’t that popular in Taiwan yet. So, for overseas media, we use Instagram but in Taiwan, Facebook is still more popular.
What kind of content are you looking for when you go on these platforms?
I like lists that include a number of brands as a benchmark. Vogue does this well. It lists a lot of products, which makes it easier to do a comparison and to see the differences between them. I think in Taiwan, people are still very interested in the lifestyle and personal sharing aspects of social media, which is why Facebook is popular. It’s more of a community.
What are your favourite Instagram accounts?
I check Vogue, KAIA, Elle Shop and GQ, as they are all favourites of mine. I also look at travel bloggers as I love seeing people’s experiences in different countries.
Do you subscribe to any newsletters?
Yes—Business Weekly and Apple Daily, which is very popular in Taiwan. I have the China Times too. Like everywhere in the world, newsletters are getting popular as nobody has the time to read the actual paper. Often, it’s just about the headline. That’s why [messaging app] Line is super popular.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It’s a tricky one but maybe to learn Chinese traditions more fully. My dad is very traditional and very conservative while my mother is quite Americanised. I think I took the easy route and followed my mother’s path and almost forgot—through all my academic activities—the very core traditions of being Chinese. I wish I had put aside more time to learn about Chinese culture and understand what makes us Taiwanese.
What’s the most important thing your parents have ever taught you?
I would say consistency. I was sent to boarding school when I was young—back when I couldn’t even speak English—and I think what it really taught me was to have that consistent courage and faith that I could get through it. Now, when I look back, I think I have learned to never give up and keep on trying.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
The States! All my friends are there—that’s my comfort zone. Plus, growing up in California would be great for my kid.
What inspires you?
Travelling. It really inspires my work as jewellery designer. During buying season or international fairs, I travel a lot. I think the craziest travelling I did was five countries in seven days around Europe.
What do you treasure the most?
People, for sure. I really treasure my teammates because when I think of everything I have accomplished today, it's the people surrounding me who have really allowed it to happen.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Maybe [former American basketball player] Kobe Bryant. He was so consistent and strong through his injuries and the pressure of being constantly compared to Michael Jordan. When I think of what he has accomplished, it’s amazing. Not just athletically, but from his spirit too.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To move forward and create more room in your life—and not to dwell on the past.
What about the worst advice?
Oh, to always say yes to everything. I think that’s terrible advice as it means you’re not being honest with yourself and with others. And you’re not doing what’s good for you. I think it’s a sign of a lack of confidence.
What is the secret to success?
Curiosity. I have a very curious mind and often go down routes that other people aren’t expecting or are prepared for. When people say “that probably can’t happen” or “that test’s never been done before,” I always wonder how far I can go.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Being my dad’s assistant! My dad’s the president of our family business and working with him wasn’t always easy—particularly when I was younger and didn’t really know about boundaries. It's taken me a while to define what the boundary between us is. And I think, 10 years ago, I was probably more eager to do a lot of things and wanted to prove myself so much more than I do now—although I still struggle with my self-esteem so I don’t react well to criticism.
What piece of current work are you most proud of?
My jewellery designs for sure. The Weng Collection in particular is something I am super proud of. I've taken it to [the Bijorhca] jewellery show in Paris, which was really amazing because I was the first Asian designer to participate. I wish I spoke French!