The 60-year-old who is arguably Singapore’s fanciest dressed grandfather
One half of beauty and wellness empire, Jean Yip Group, Mervin Wee is a risk-taker when it comes to his bold wardrobe choices. But up-close, he’s a textbook extroverted introvert who prefers to express himself through fashion.
Even before Mervin Wee partnered up with his wife, Jean Yip, to launch a humble hair salon business in the 80s that has today become a beauty juggernaut with nine brands under its wing, he already had a keen sense of style as a teenager.
When he acquired his first pair of Levi’s jeans, he didn’t like how it looked – new, blue and crisp – so he bleached it, scraped it on the pavement, and even buried it to make it look more distressed!
“Style is one thing that’s very individual. I see perfection in imperfection. I don’t like everything to be too perfect. That’s why sometimes, my pants, my shirt can be totally out of shape but I think it is nice,” professed the 60-year-old creative and managing director for Jean Yip Group.
His approach to fashion definitely stems from his love for hairstyling, where he considers shapes, textures and colours in an ensemble to create a look. Don’t expect Wee to suit up in head-to-toe Hugo Boss or Ermenegildo Zegna; he will gravitate to something more unexpected like pairing Yohji Yamamoto with John Galliano.
To a certain degree, working in the hairstyling business has also given Wee the freedom to experiment and develop his keen sense of style. According to his daughter Rachel, who is the brand manager for the family business, his wardrobe is filled with pieces from Japanese labels such as Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garcons and Issey Miyake, as well as British designers, Craig Green and Neil Barrett.
“I never thought that my dad was particularly fashionable. I always figured that was the norm. It was only when my friends kept asking me about his clothes and accessories, then I realised maybe his dressing is a bit loud and flamboyant! I think it’s very different from his character because he’s actually quite a quiet and reserved guy,” revealed Rachel, whom Wee often shops with or consults for fashion advice.
As Tatler’s Most Stylish Man 2019, the youthful grandfather believes that age should have no bearing in how you should dress yourself. “It doesn’t matter what age you are; I believe in just being myself,” he attested.
Wee has a soft spot for trousers, which he believes are the foundation to every outfit, and is obsessed with eyewear. He owns close to 70 pairs of spectacles. “A lot of people would say, glasses are glasses, right? But the details are different. Even the slightest shape, makes a lot of difference, just like hairstyling,” he explained.
Japanese luxury eyewear brand Matsuda features prominently in his eyewear collection because of its vintage feel and casual, distressed shapes and textures. But his favourite is a practical pair of foldable spectacles by Ray-Ban, gifted to him by his daughter. “I treat all my spectacles as objects of art because they complement the individual styling and enhance the outfit I’m wearing. It’s all about the total package.”
He defends his passion for eyewear as any fashion expert would: “Fashion is not about your hair, it’s not about your glasses, it’s not about what you wear. It’s a complete look, so the hairstyle has to compliment your face, and the glasses have to also compliment your total outfit,” he advised.
Adapted from the series Remarkable Living. Watch full episodes on CNA, every Sunday at 8.30pm.