My Wardrobe: Q&A

A suit is a businessman's armour, says skincare brand CEO

Mr Shinji Yamasaki, who has about 20 suits for summer and 20 suits for winter, says he has gotten a lot of opportunities because of the way he dresses.
Mr Shinji Yamasaki, who has about 20 suits for summer and 20 suits for winter, says he has gotten a lot of opportunities because of the way he dresses.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Shinji Yamasaki of skincare label RE:ERTH was taught by his father that a really good suit is a businessman's armour

Mr Shinji Yamasaki, chief executive of Singapore-based skincare brand RE:ERTH. The 33-year-old, who is in a relationship, shuttles between Singapore and his native Japan, where the brand's star ingredients grow on his farms.

How would you describe your style?

It is more classic than casual. I love a suit with a peak lapel. I also love three-piece suits. My dad instilled in me the notion that a suit is a businessman's armour.

He worked in New York in the early 1960s at a medical device company. His boss said: "This is your first pay cheque. Spend it all on a suit. It doesn't matter if you have to eat cans of beans for a month. Go and buy one really good suit."

That's what he did.

That has been passed on to me. I have gotten a lot of opportunities simply because of the way I dress. I go to many conventions and I've been stopped many times by people saying: "Hey, I saw you here last year - I loved your blue suit. Come, let me show you what we have."

When did your interest in fashion start?

In middle school, but I didn't know what I was doing. I went through many phases. There were the animal-print T-shirts, with wolves and buffaloes. In high school, I hit a hip-hop phase, so I had baggy jeans with sagging waistlines and boxers; triple-XL football jerseys with sleeves past my elbows; bandannas and Timberland boots.

I started getting my groove towards the end of high school, when I wore more button-down shirts and tailored jeans.

Who are your favourite designers and which are your go-to brands?

Ralph Lauren. He has unbelievable talent for designing a classic yet modern suit. If you have seen the original The Great Gatsby (1974), he designed all the outfits in the film.

My go-to brands for shoes are Crockett & Jones and J.M. Weston. A lot of luxury brands' shoes do not last long at all. My shoes are made to be worn for a long time and can be fixed easily. I have shoes I bought in college that I still wear.

Who are your style icons?

Nobody wore a suit like (movie star) Cary Grant. I have a little more colour than him, though.

Because a suit is timeless, it will always look good. A lot of the suits I have were handed down from my father. He bought them 20 or 30 years ago and I have re-tailored them to fit. Our styles are so similar, we will even buy the same suit separately. Sometimes, we will meet wearing the same thing. Then we just look at each other and sigh.

What are your favourite pieces in your wardrobe?

A navy suit (photos 1 to 3) from Boggi that I got off the rack in Venice, Italy. The fabric is interesting and that is what caught my eye - it has a woven pattern and a slightly shiny element.

The salesman did not want to sell it to me because it was not my size, but I said: "Don't worry. My tailor can do anything."

There is also a T-shirt I turned into a tank top that I wear in the gym (photo 4). I bought it at Gold's Gym in Venice, California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and all the Mr Olympias have trained.

Then there are my father's lapis lazuli cufflinks (photo 5); a Hublot Big Bang Earl Gray watch (photo 6) that took me about two years to track down; sunglasses from my favourite brand, Oliver Peoples (photo 7); and a tie I bought in the Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia (photo 8).

What are your weaknesses when it comes to shopping?

Suits, obviously. I have about 20 for summer and 20 for winter. My other weakness is the leather jacket. I have two black ones, two brown ones, a grey one and a bluish one. They are from Belstaff.

What is your favourite splurge piece?

A black leather jacket I bought a year ago for $1,200. I do not buy clothes on impulse.

Is there a purchase you have regretted?

When I was in high school, I bought a long black leather trenchcoat from Zara. It was when The Matrix (1999) came out. I wore it once and then never again until last year, when I went to a Halloween party dressed as Joker from Suicide Squad (2016).

What is your most recent fashion purchase?

I was in Bologna, Italy, for work in March and I had a red suit made at Sartoria Rossi. I had seen the store the year before and it had some amazing coloured blazers in brighter reds, blues and yellows, with really nice cuts. This year, I saw that red suit and I was like, "Yup, that's it."

But it did not have my size, so it had to make it for me. It was €1,200 (S$1,910) - not bad for a bespoke suit.

What is the best shopping or style advice you live by?

I always want to buy something I can wear for a long time. If I am going to spend more than $1,000 on a suit, I want it to last forever.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'CEO's suits of armour'. Print Edition | Subscribe