It was during one summer holiday back in 2014 when Wen Yeunh returned to Kuala Lumpur to attend a friend’s wedding that he discovered he had forgotten to bring a pair of black oxfords with him. “Me and my eventual business partner Jay Son Tan went looking for a pair and found that outside of the big fashion houses, there weren’t many options available to us,” he
recalls. This eventually led to the establishment of WJ & Co., a curated multi-label menswear store that offers high-quality products made by dedicated artisans with an emphasis on craftsmanship. Wen Yeunh’s interest in classic menswear was first ignited during his career stint in New York. “When I was there, it was becoming more socially acceptable for men, particularly in the finance industry, to be more open about their interest in dressing. The emergence of great independent, specialist boutiques run by individuals with a deep knowledge base helped my interest turn into a passion through the interactions I had with them,” he elaborates. An encounter with Tom Riley of P. Johnson Tailors when Wen Yeunh was living in Melbourne further encouraged him to pursue the establishment of WJ & Co.
Given his former background in finance, he admits that there was a steep learning curve upon diving into the retail industry. “Personally I find customer fulfilment to be the most challenging but also the most rewarding aspect of my work,” he opens up. At the moment, Wen Yeunh aims to focus on refining their product selection to anticipate their clients’ wants and needs. Following the success of the trunk shows held in 2016, they will be hosting the trunk shows more frequently as well as in-store events such as shoe care masterclasses.
What is the selection process like when it comes to the artisans you showcase in the store?
We at WJ & Co. like to see the store as an extension of our personalities, so in a sense, we only carry artisans that we truly believe in and whose products we would use ourselves. We’re very selective in that we look for “best-in-class” artisans that provide great value for their craft. Whenever new artisans are brought to our attention, we start by learning all that we can about them – who they are, what makes them unique, how deep their heritage goes, and so on. At the end of the day though, it almost always comes back to what we think our clients would appreciate.
What is your personal approach to classic menswear?
Personally, I believe in quality and value – which is a large part of why I love craftsmanship and artisanal products. They last a lot longer and look better as they age than when they were new. Fit is also immensely important and is oddly very often overlooked by most guys. It’s a shame how many guys buy the most expensive suit or shoes and automatically assume it fits and looks good because of the price tag. That’s not really how it works. In terms of dressing, I try not to overthink it. There is great beauty in simplicity and I try to abide by the concept that if I go to my wardrobe and pull out an outfit randomly, it should work with very little tweaking. This means that I have to be very selective when adding to it and also I always think about my wardrobe holistically as everything has to be in harmony. A benefit of that is that it prevents me from buying unnecessarily!
What are men buying these days?
I think men in general are looking towards investing in products that are well made and last a long time, which naturally ties in well with the craftsmanship and artisanal nature of the goods we advocate. We also see men wanting to express themselves more through their style, which is a great thing. Through the made-to-order and made-to-measure programmes with the artisans we work with, our clients constantly surprise me with their creativity and personality through their choices.