For th­ese dash­ing hon­chos, style is go­ing against the grain, and not with a lit­tle chutz­pah.


Adrian Tan, founder of Ad Planet, is one of our trio of well- dressed hon­chos.

He’s the founder of Ad Planet, Sin­ga­pore’s largest in­de­pen­dent ad­ver­tis­ing group. Af­fa­ble and ever stylish, he still shows the fire that made him a trail­blazer when he first set up his own ad­ver­tis­ing agency dur­ing a pe­riod dom­i­nated by in­ter­na­tional names. “Thirty years ago, there was a big bias against local talents,” Adrian Tan rem­i­nisces. “My cru­sade was to change that. I’m happy to note that many local talents have gone on to win the equiv­a­lent of the Os­cars for ad­ver­tis­ing awards.”

What he doesn’t add is that no fewer than 400 of those cre­ative awards, in­clud­ing hon­ours at the pres­ti­gious Clio Awards and Cannes Lions, have been won by agen­cies in the group, Ki­netic De­sign and Ad­ver­tis­ing and Germs. “I am very much for the un­der­dog,” he says with a grin. “I have al­ways had a lot of re­bel­lious en­ergy inside me, to con­stantly test lim­its and break the rules. My cause has al­ways been to prove the im­pos­si­ble, to prove naysay­ers wrong.”

I try my best not to be fash­ion­able.

I think fash­ion is for the crowd and I have al­ways gone against the crowd. Ad­ver­tis­ing is about cre­ativ­ity and orig­i­nal­ity, so if the shop as­sis­tant tells me some­thing is “this sea­son”, I won’t buy it.

My fash­ion icon is Socrates.

He’s the one who pro­pounded the say­ing “Know thy­self”. You can’t wear any­thing with­out know­ing who you are and who you want to be.

Hav­ing a fit and toned body is im­por­tant.

That’s be­cause you will wear clothes so much bet­ter. I have given up the chal­lenge of try­ing to get a six-pack and am just try­ing to avoid the paunch. So, in one week, I hit the gym four times, play 18 holes of golf three times and walk my dog 12km. I used to be a com­pet­i­tive ten­nis player but my knee has given out.

I re­ally like the style of the Ja­panese.

That’s be­cause they have this quirk­i­ness. I like Issey Miyake, Yo­hji Ya­mamoto and Comme des Gar­cons. I also like Prada, Gucci and Etro.

I am very tac­tile.

Fab­ric is im­por­tant to me and it lim­its the kind of clothes I buy. I like the look of linen but it’s too rough so it’s a no go. That’s also why I cut the la­bels off all my clothes – they poke into me! Su­per fine cot­ton is my favourite and my work pants are all tai­lored out of silk wool with a thread count of Su­per 150.

I don’t wear watches.

I don’t like any­thing on my skin and things like rings in­ter­fere with my golf, so I wear my wed­ding ring on a chain around my neck, with a pen­dant made up of the letters A and T, which my wife gave me more than 35 years ago.

I have al­ways been care­ful about how I present my­self.

I can’t re­call many fash­ion faux pas, except per­haps when I was the guest of hon­our at a polytech­nic grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony. I think I was wear­ing a suit that was a lit­tle too over­sized. But it was dur­ing a pe­riod when ev­ery­thing was baggy!

I re­alise the strat­egy of mak­ing an im­pres­sion.

This is re­lated to when I go for pitches. I have gone to meet­ings in red or pink jeans with a jacket. I also have a pink Paul Smith jacket, which has be­come a favourite be­cause it al­ways seems to win me the ac­count. I also some­times go for for­mal meet­ings dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. As an ad man, I think I have the cre­ative li­cence to be dif­fer­ent, to be a bit of a fash­ion rebel.

My style to­day.

My style is about be­ing un­der­stated and fo­cused on the clas­sics be­cause money is pre­cious. What I buy, I wear all the time, so the util­ity value is very high.

My man­age­ment style is very flat.

I don’t see my­self as a boss. When I was first put in charge of a com­pany, I was em­bar­rassed to be the MD or the CEO, so I would leave out the ti­tle on the busi­ness card. Un­til some­one said I had to in­clude one, so now the ti­tle has mor­phed into “towkay”.

As a mar­keter who has worked for Adi­das for over five years, Mar­cus Chew’s pas­sion for slick sneak­ers seems al­most in­evitable. But even af­ter his move to the de­cid­edly less flashy world of in­sur­ance as chief marketing of­fi­cer of NTUC In­come, Chew is still bring­ing a lit­tle sar­to­rial flair to the work­place. That Paul Smith-clad swag­ger is backed by a hands-on lead­er­ship style and fear­less­ness in the face of risk.

I have more than a hun­dred pairs of sneak­ers.

That’s far more shoes than my wife has. I own many from Adi­das, Nike and Asics but it’s the col­lab­o­ra­tions that I re­ally love, be­cause they’re all about the de­tails. Ex­am­ples in­clude the Nike x Acro­nym with the lat­ter’s sig­na­ture large zip­pers, and Adi­das Orig­i­nals by Alexan­der Wang and Vir­gil Abloh from Off-white. I do most of my shop­ping online and I keep up with sneaker news by sub­scrib­ing to blogs and web­sites, but I have to be more se­lec­tive now, be­cause I’m run­ning out of room.

Wardrobe essen­tials

are a nicely cut jacket and a pocket square to keep it in­ter­est­ing. When I was in Lon­don, I saw all th­ese win­dow dis­plays show­ing off suits from Hugo Boss, Zegna and Dior but they all looked the same. So what you can do to make the look your own is to throw in a pocket square or a lapel pin and just play around with the out­fit. It’s im­por­tant to have fun with your shoes, too, but get ta­pered pants if you’re go­ing to show them off.

Don’t stick to what you’re com­fort­able with.

Try dif­fer­ent things, see what hap­pens and don’t worry about what peo­ple say. The per­fect fit doesn’t even mat­ter that much any­more since over­sized items can look stylish th­ese days. But I think the best trick is to get a re­ally good pair of sneak­ers. Your out­fit may be drab but, as long as your sneak­ers pop, you’re fash­ion­able.

Judg­ing peo­ple based on what they wear is a bit harsh.

But I think peo­ple who bother to dress well show that they care about the lit­tle things. If you can’t even be both­ered to look pre­sentable, then what do you care about?

Youth development is a cause that’s close to my heart.

My fam­ily wasn’t poor, but I’ve had friends who didn’t have enough money to go to school. I once bor­rowed $500 from my fa­ther and com­bined it with my own sav­ings of $500 to lend to a friend so he could pay his school fees. At that mo­ment, I thought: “This isn’t some­thing that should be hap­pen­ing. Ed­u­ca­tion should be a ba­sic ne­ces­sity.” So I started the Fu­ture Development Pro­gramme at NTUC In­come, and it sup­ports ter­tiary stu­dents from the low­est in­come house­holds in Sin­ga­pore. So far we have spent about $2.5 mil­lion on over 1,000 ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Run­ning re­laxes me.

I’m work­ing to­wards be­ing a Six Star Fin­isher for the World Marathon Ma­jors and I just have New York and Boston left. It’s true what they say: you learn about life from run­ning a marathon. I’ve run 11 of them; each one taught me some­thing dif­fer­ent. The most im­por­tant les­son is that ev­ery­thing will pass. I was at the 17km mark in a Tokyo marathon when I thought I couldn’t go on any­more, but I told my­self it’s okay to run slower and, af­ter an­other kilo­me­tre, I felt bet­ter and wound up hit­ting my per­sonal best. So don’t give up when you’re down, be­cause it al­ways gets bet­ter.

David Leong wears many, many hats. Given his snazzy sense of style, we could have meant that lit­er­ally but the founder of Peo­ple World­wide Con­sult­ing is also a man with ex­pe­ri­ence in in­cred­i­bly di­verse fields of busi­ness. He’s set up em­ploy­ment agency Man­power Corp In­ter­na­tional, launched a por­tal and mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion known as mKU that lets pro­fes­sion­als share busi­ness and ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties, part­nered the Min­istry of Man­power on an­other app pro­vid­ing mo­bile solutions to for­eign work­ers in Sin­ga­pore, and is cur­rently busy­ing him­self with Straits Trades In­cor­po­rated, a con­sult­ing firm that focuses on ac­qui­si­tion, merger and in­vest­ment solutions. And all while look­ing sharp, to boot.

I have a re­bel­lious pre­dis­po­si­tion.

This is in re­la­tion to fash­ion and its repet­i­tive cy­cles, be­cause I dis­like group­think. In­stead, I’m fas­ci­nated with tai­lor­ing. I like ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent col­lars – from clas­sic to Bri­tish and Ital­ian spread – but­ton thick­ness and but­ton hole threads. Which is why my shirts must stand out: crisp, sharp, fit­ted and a state­ment on their own.

I have over a hun­dred cuff­links.

I have them in var­i­ous sizes. The ones I fancy most are those with in­fin­ity

loop or knot de­signs. Since I no longer wear ties, cuff­links and belts in dif­fer­ent per­mu­ta­tions are what ex­cite me be­fore I start my day.

I don’t have a style icon.

How­ever, I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by The God­fa­ther, so watch­ing those suited gentle­men with their high Ital­ian spread col­lars in­spired me to do the same.

I am im­per­vi­ous to fash­ion sea­sons.

Nonethe­less, I do like con­tem­plat­ing their changes. I take what I like from each sea­son and fuse them with my own ideas at the tai­lor, such as the way the peaked lapel should point, where the pock­ets will be and at what an­gle. It’s no dif­fer­ent in busi­ness – I look at changes, take the best from each trans­for­ma­tive phase, and keep mov­ing.

Part of my good for­tune

comes from do­ing things most peo­ple don’t want to do, and find­ing the best way for­ward. I have busi­nesses in hu­man re­sources, IT, tech­nol­ogy and even cor­po­rate fi­nance and each is vastly dif­fer­ent, but go­ing deep and wide into each cat­e­gory spurs me to keep learn­ing. I cre­ate my own space and then I thrive in it.

You’re a leader when oth­ers em­u­late you.

Be­ing copied is the best flat­tery. As Lao Zi said, the best leader is one whose ex­is­tence is barely known by the peo­ple he leads. True lead­ers will guide with­out force, to the ex­tent that you think you are mak­ing your own choices; they will re­tire to the back­ground once things are done.

The key to mak­ing a great first im­pres­sion?

Hav­ing a glow in the eyes that give off pos­i­tive en­ergy, paired with a big, broad smile that lifts up the en­tire face – this is my magic com­bi­na­tion. My smile inevitably in­vites other smiles and rap­port with peo­ple will be made.

Any­thing that ap­peals to the senses is based on a suite of sub­lim­i­nal de­tails.

Whether it’s a busi­ness idea, a piece of fur­ni­ture or a suit, it’s the de­tails that make all the dif­fer­ence. Ev­ery stitch that pulls things to­gether must be metic­u­lous and dealt with care, and a good leader can stitch to­gether share­hold­ers, stake­hold­ers, staff, pro­fes­sion­als and cus­tomers into a work­ing unit.

My big­gest fash­ion faux pas?

Prob­a­bly a red pants and white shirt com­bi­na­tion I once wore to a rel­a­tive’s wed­ding when I was a teenager. I still get teased about it.

CRE­ATIVE LI­CENCETan is drawn to Ja­panese de­sign be­cause of its quirk­i­ness. He’s pic­tured here in his own clothes. Suit from Issey Miyake, shirt from Aganovich and shoes from Jil San­ders.


COR­PO­RATE STYLE, PER­SON­ALISED MAR­CUS CHEW, 43, CHIEF MARKETING OF­FI­CER, NTUC IN­COMEMUST- HAVESFor Chew, wardrobe essen­tials are a well-cut jacket and a snazzy pocket square. His suit is from Kenzo, bought be­cause de­tails such as the blue strap ap­peal to him.


TAI­LOR- MADELeong ex­per­i­ments with de­tails at the tai­lor to en­sure his clothes stand out. The lapis lazuli bracelet (above) stand in for Bud­dhist prayer beads when he is stressed. Shoes from GK Mayer.

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