When Ting and I met for the very first time over lunch at Sura restaurant, it was as if I had known her for a very long time. Our mutual friend M had arranged for the three of us to connect as she thought we had mutual interests and should network. Here’s the thing about Ting that you immediately become aware of when you meet and talk with her - she makes you feel special very naturally. She wants to know about you and your story; and will listen attentively. She will also tell you about hers – openly and sincerely. There is no hidden agenda.
With a remarkable sense of self and good wits, Ting’s approach to living life in fulfilling ways shows through her words, her actions, and her stylish heels as a successful PR expert, engaged philanthropist, a mother, a wife, and a friend. And if you haven’t met Ting (yet), I bet you know someone who knows someone who knows her – I call it the Ting effect!
She is the emblem of what a woman of her words is - and therefore this month’s Woman of Style!
OR: What does style mean to you, in both your personal and professional life?
TB: Style is how you ROCK it! I don't normally define myself by what I do, but rather who I am. I'm pretty much the same person you'll meet over coffee in my personal and professional life.
For me, style is essentially a commitment you make and then supported by or as little confidence you decide to contribute to it. Style is a statement you would like people to remember you by so I take it pretty seriously! I prefer BOLD statements and doing everything with a sense of purpose both personally and professionally.
OR: What defines your signature style? And, how did you come to realize it?
TB: I own a women's clothing line named after my mother. Having worked in big cities like Boston and NY in the world of finance and investments for many years, truthfully I don't think I ever owned a business suit that I did not attempt to personally make my own.
My clothing line, Tong Collection is described as J Crew meets Southeast Asian flair! Usually that flair is a statement necklace, brocade accent or strikingly bold color in the lining of the suit or piece.
My style has developed over time but remains consistent throughout my wardrobe in that all the pieces are well-made, well-tailored and well, has that little something that makes it all its own. I start off with something basic and then create from there...
OR: Do you have a style muse? Who and why?
TB: I have many style muses and they offer me a little of everything. I draw inspiration from the people I meet, friendships I've made and strangers I will be meeting.
OR: What is your go-to workday uniform?
TB: My professional work day uniform usually has to go from workday to motherhood to evening engagements effortlessly.
My day time work days are filled with meetings over: breakfast, coffee, lunch, more coffee with my favorite time of the day, a break to pick up my five-year-old daughter from school and spend time with her in various activities (library, gymnastics, music lessons) and then evenings consist of Board meetings, cocktails, galas or community fundraisers.
So the outfit I wear for the workday is also the outfit I will also be rocking at some of my evening events. I try to find that fashionable balance between elegance and comfort. Darling is a clothing line based out of the UK that offers me this duality of elegance and comfort.
Luckily, Shoppe Pioneer carries this line and I am usually rocking one of their one piece well-fitted dresses (short and mid-length) with a pair of black work pumps. The Darling dresses come in all colorful patterns, solid colors and cuts offering my petite and curvy frame the justice it deserves.
OR: Where do you like to shop?
TB: Locally of course! Three of my favorite boutiques I often frequent: Shoppe Pioneer, Modern Love and The Vault Collective! All three boutiques are owned by three incredible women I've had the pleasure of getting to know and have truly shaped and inspired the current state of my eclectic wardrobe.
When I shop at these boutiques, I'm not just coming home with some fashionable items but I'm also bringing with me years of friendship and thoughtful conversations that help me refine my sense of style. I am grateful for these insightful stylists in my life.
OR: What are you splurging on this spring season?
TB: When I think of spring...the words vibrant, fresh, colorful and comfort come to mind. I'll be looking for items that embrace these themes! I am going to be splurging on lots and lots of floral and solid, brightly colored maxi dresses, colorful wedges and ray bans...maybe I'll even put a flower in my hair!
OR: You feel most creative when you're wearing…
TB: Black. I enjoy accessorizing with jewelry. I think this is partly due to the fact that my parents were in the business of jewelry making. My favorite black piece is actually a stretch, slim fitting LBD by Lululemon. It is the most comfortable garment I own and can be worn either dressed down or very fancy depending on how I accessorize (I've worn it both ways). This mid-length LBD was created by a yoga/fitness company and offers me such comfort, confidence and I just feel so sexy and free whenever I wear it!
OR: In the spirit of Connectedness (this month’s blog theme), how do you connect all of your various interests - fashion, PR, and community engagement?
TB: When people connect, I often see lots of positivity and productivity! I call them the two P’s! The mantra I live by is, “We are all in this together!” Being surrounded by so much local talent in the work that I do, I have the opportunity to meet awesome people…creatives, community activists, artists, musicians, non-profit CEOs, fashionistas, stylists, architects…people DOING the things they love that bring them joy!
When I am able to connect these movers and shakers, it brings ME joy to see magic happen. There’s synergy in everything we do…we are all part of one another in some way, shape or form. Finding that commonality and making it work bring so much success!
OR: What's the biggest lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur?
TB: I've learned that it's okay to fail. Better yet, it's important to fail. I don't think you can be successful without pushing yourself to the limit. Failure usually means two things: 1. You tried your best 2. You are encouraged to try again.
I believe that success is a direct result of many failed attempts. If you haven't failed, you haven't pushed yourself enough to make those mistakes that will help develop the skills you never knew you had! I find myself constantly evolving professionally and it's pretty exciting!
Ting Barnard is the Chief Relationship Officer at Jai Communications Group, a Public Relations Company in the heart of Downtown Providence. In her role, Ting has the opportunity to meet individuals, learn about what they do and help them share and highlight their powerful stories and mission. She is involved in several different non-profit organizations in Providence that truly inspire her: PVD Lady Project, Leadership Rhode Island, Style Week, SEED, Year UP, Women's Fund of Rhode Island, Center for Southeast Asians of RI, Children's Friend and Lincoln School.
Photography: Brittanny Taylor