“Suit Geek” is PRINCIPLE M’s original feature column where each month we reach out to one of our loyal customers & friends and ask him to share his clothing, life, and his unique point of view on gentlemen’s style.
For our 13th Suit Geek interview, we invited our good friend Mr. Diao Shengyan. At PM, we have a nickname for him – we’d always call him Diao Yan. In fact, it wasn’t until this interview did Justin discuss it with Mr. Diao. Diao thinks that at the beginning when they first met, Justin found ‘sheng’ difficult to pronounce, so he somehow left that one character out.
“So no one calls you Diao Yan other than us?”
“Nope, only you guys at PM call me that, haha, it’s like a nickname!”
For this interview, Mr. Diao shared his life in Japan with us, and how Japanese culture influenced his lifestyle, such as clothing, food, etc.
THE AFFAIR WITH SUITS, BEGINS IN JAPAN
Mr. Diao got his very first suit when he first moved to Japan, “it was for a party, and the dress code was pretty strict. You can’t get in without a suit.” he said.
Like a lot of people who just got one foot into the door, Mr. Diao thought the tighter the suit was the better. Even though the shop assistant told him to go with one size up, he still went one size down.
Mr. Diao: “I barely wore it again, just wasn’t comfortable. After I moved back to Beijing, I still wanted to wear suits, so eventually, I found you guys.”
Justin: How did you find us?
Mr. Diao: I wanted to buy a tie. So I went on Google and searched “Beijing, Suit Shop, Ties”, and voila, found you guys!
Justin laughed, he said to Mr, Diao, “you’re probably the only one who found us on Google.com, haha.”
Mr. Diao: Actually I didn’t find your shop directly. I saw a video you posted where you and Nicolas were teaching people to do a tie knot. Through that video, I found your store.
Mr. Diao: After I moved back to China, I started to work right away as a lawyer. For an entry-level lawyer, I didn’t have to meet clients or join any meetings, I was mostly doing copywriting work in the beginning, so I didn’t have to wear suits to work every day. But when I did, the ready-to-wear suits that I owned didn’t make me feel comfortable in it. But what confused me was that, why do I spend a lot of money buying a piece of clothing that makes me feel uncomfortable? Is it really the way is?
Mr. Diao: However, I didn’t know much about suits and bespoke tailoring at that time. I just saw your video and liked your style. The first time I visited PM, I had a very pleasant experience. I liked the atmosphere and I enjoyed our conversation. Then I made shirts and suits, and so it began my bespoke journey.
I THINK COMMISSIONING TAILORED SUITS IS AN INTIMATE MATTER
Mr. Diao: I think commissioning a tailored suit is an intimate matter. I came here, you know my exact measurements, my style, what I like, what I don’t like. For me, this is very intimate.
“It’s not just shopping and trading; it’s more like a friendship and a trust. I am willing to share my information, and then you tell me what is better and more suitable for me.”
What Mr. Diao just told us was very interesting, and profound. He also thinks that the relationship he has with the tailor is similar to him as a lawyer with his clients. “I think a lawyer is an intimate relation, too. The client comes here and asks for solutions for his problems, but he has to open up first and share his problems with me.”
Mr. Diao: I also didn’t mind someone designing a tie that you can just wear without knotting it by yourself. But after a while, you learned more, you will find pleasure and satisfaction within. Different ways to knot your ties results in different styles. It changes with your mood, too. If you’re not in a good mood today, your knot probably won’t look pretty.
Justin: I understand what you said, and I agree, too.
Mr. Diao:One of my favourite pieces that I made here is a double-breasted jacket, and that was almost the first time I wore something with many colours in it. And I never wore a double-breasted suit before. But after that jacket, I started liking the double-breasted style, and I became more willing to try more colourful clothes.
Justin: how do you dress yourself when you’re off work?
Mr. Diao: I also wear suits when I’m off work, but mostly I would go with a jacket and a pair of trousers or jeans, with bolder style, like adding a scarf or something, which is NOT something I would wear to work on weekdays.
Mr. Diao: sometimes I check out Mr. Slowboy’s blog, and some other Japanese menswear bloggers on Youtube, and learn from them.
YEBISU BEER, たそがれ清兵衛, and Chitterlings Hotpot
Mr. Diao: I cook, sometimes. Normally in the evenings I will have a drink, and I will make some small dishes to have with the drink, like Natto.
Then Mr. Diao took out his phone, showed a picture of some dishes that he made.
Mr. Diao: There’s a Japanese beer called YEBISU, I like that one a lot.
All of us looked confused when we heard the name. So Mr. Diao took out his phone again and showed us a picture of that beer. “You really did your ‘homework’!” Justin says, surprised.
There’s no doubt that Mr. Diao’s eating habit is very much influenced by Japanese people. He also taught us how to drink ASAHI super dry in a proper way.
Justin: ASAHI is one of my favourite beers. I notice there’s a Japanese word ‘karakuchi’ on the can, what does that mean?
Mr. Diao: ah, karakuchi! In Chinese it means ‘辛口’, which is not hot or spicy, to be exact. It’s more about the refreshing feeling you have when it flows down from your mouth to your throat. Jamen should know, saki also has ‘karakuchi’.
Mr. Diao: in Japan, people would drink ASAHI super dry as their first drink, because it’s refreshing, then they’ll begin to drink something else.
Justin: any good films that you saw lately?
Mr. Diao: I have two. One is Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score was fantastic in it. And there’s a Japanese film called The Twilight Samurai, which is about Japanese samurai.
Justin joked that the only film he knew about samurai was the one which Tom Cruise starred in. Mr. Diao then asked Justin if he has any film he saw recenly that inspired him in terms of classical menswear.
Justin: I do have one actually, Martin Scorsese’s Casino, we just did a new movie list and it included this film. The film is set in 1970s in Las Vagas, where Robert DeNiro plays a Jewish guy working at a casino. The jackets he wore in that film were very colourful, very bold, and the cut was nice, which reminds me of Jamen a lot. He also appreciates colour, and he certainly nails the look. I think it’s nice to add a bit more colours into your daily wardrobe.
Justin: is there any place in Beijing you want to recommend to our readers?
Mr. Diao: There’s a Chitterlings Hotpot joint that I love in Santitun, but there’s always a queue. And every time I wore a suit to that restaurant, I would carry that smell with me on my suit when I leave. I had to hang it up at the balcony for two days to air it out, haha!
Mr. Diao: in Xinchengguoji, there’s a Japanese whisky bar called Ge Lang. It is a speakeasy. I used to go there a lot.
After knowing Mr. Diao for years, we realised we never really asked where his hometown is.
Mr. Diao: I was born in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province. I went to elementary school and junior high in Hainan, then I went to Shanghai for college, stayed four years.
Justin: so how do you like it here in Beijing?
Mr. Diao: I’m from the South, so natually I would have to take sometime to get used to the weather here. However, I really don’t enjoy feeling cold in a room, here we have central heating, which is a blessing. So I like it here.
Mr. Diao: and if I didn’t come to Beijing, I wouldn’t have met you guys! I think we should call it ‘fate’.
In fact, right after the interview, we learned that Mr. Diao is moving back to Shanghai soon, which we’re kind of sad to see a good friend go. “I can always come back!” he says to us, “and I can come to your trunk shows in Shanghai.” hopefully when things get better, and we’ll be able to travel more often to see our friends in Shanghai, and other cities in the world.
Interviewer: Justin Writer: Carrie Photographer: Adora, Suzy Produced by PRINCIPLE M