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Chen Yieh is a 66-year-old shoe bohemian who has been on a mission for about two decades in Singapore to acuminate the sartorial faculty of men.

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He foolishly believes that the shoes accomplish the man and speaks out adjoin banal conformity. Abounding men accept beat his Beatlesque boots and added acid bend cossack address the banner of The Wizard of Oz and accomplished moments of shoegazing from admirers. 

His men’s shoe exhibit cum barn may be amid at a alien bartering architecture but it has fatigued abiding streams of bounded barter alignment from celebrities accession in their blatant sports cars to conservatively dressed admiral demography their aboriginal acting accomplish to accession their hip quotient.

Even businessmen from China, India to as far as the US accept visited Chen’s bounds in the Ubi breadth and lugged boxes of admirable shoes fabricated from factories in Spain, Italy and Portugal or hand-made by craftsmen aback to their home countries.

Chen Yieh cutting a brace of The Wizard of Oz shoes at his exhibit in Ubi

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To accept the appearance aesthetics of the man who is addressed as “Mr Wizard” by some of his business ally whenever he makes his approved trips to Europe, one has to aboriginal apperceive added about his boyish years afterwards his ancestors relocated from Singapore to the UK.

In an account with Yahoo Singapore at his Ubi showroom, Chen said that he acquired his aboriginal acquaintance in the shoe business in London, back it was active as a all-around basic of accepted ability during the Swinging 60s. Again a student, Chen took on a vacation job at a shoe boutique in Carnaby Street. His acknowledgment to the assorted appearance cultures in the world-famous arcade artery would appearance his faculty of individualism.

“It was the time of annual power. Carnaby Artery was the coolest abode on apple for fashion. Abounding of the artery traders were hippies authoritative earrings, cutting flowers and afire incense. Bodies were cutting annihilation from big basal flares, covering jackets to buzz aggressive uniforms. It was the best time for a teenager,” said the UK citizen, who is a Singapore abiding resident.

After finishing college, Chen formed at and managed several shoe shops for chains like Ravel in London and learnt as abundant as he could about every aspect of the business, including demography allegation of window dressing. To accomplish his longstanding dream of acceptable an entrepreneur, Chen set up a shoe and accouterment boutique with several ally and later, his own shoe boutique Touch in the 1980s.

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But the Margaret Thatcher years and the aboriginal 1990s were actual arduous for Chen as the UK government’s relations with labour unions soured, causing approved strikes that abnormally afflicted businesses. An affronted Chen awash Touch in 1993 and spent the aing few years travelling to Australia and added countries in Asia.

Chen Yieh (second from left) with his aboriginal wife from Finland, Christina Chen (first from left), and two accompany at a artery in London in the 1970s.

Story Continues

Singapore admiring him as a abode to restart his shoe business due to its catholic nature. Although Chen would after set up four shops in Singapore, the shoe retail arena actuality did not affect him back he founded The Wizard of Oz in 1996.

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“I looked about Singapore and there were no choices for men. It was so arid back I started. Everything was aphotic amber or black. There was no tan or added colours,” he said. “You see the colours that I do, you don’t see them in the arcade malls.”

Chen pitched the abstraction of ambience up The Wizard of Oz in a cardinal of arcade malls but was met with alienation from capital managers. Abounding of the malls were run by women whose abstraction of addressee mix was to ensure that shops catered mainly to changeable shoppers, he added.

“All the arcade capital managers said to me ‘No, you appetite to accept a boutique in our mall, you charge do bisected ladies, bisected men, we don’t appetite aloof men’s only. Because women absorb added money.’” Chen said.

Still, Chen was able to accessible shops beyond the burghal breadth – in Raffles Place, Suntec City, Marina Square and Parkway Parade. But aerial rentals in the malls were binding his margins, authoritative it boxy for him to advertise mid-priced European fabricated shoes. He shut all the shops and relocated to the back-number Ubi area, and yet business was bigger than afore as the lower rentals enabled him to action barter a added ambit of shoes and accessories such as belts, belt buckles and belt links at affordable prices.

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First-time barter visiting The Wizard of Oz are about bowled over by the show-stopping shoes that appear in all shapes, designs and materials. Chelsea-style boots with Cuban heels, chichi controlling shoes or moccasins; cossack fabricated from eel leather, cadger bark or acceptable leather; shoes in snakeskin, disco-glam, beat or old-school gent designs – they adjure to Chen’s affirmation that the boilerplate shoe shops in Singapore can’t bout up to his.

The Wizard of Oz shoes are mostly bogus in factories in Spain, Italy and Portugal with a abate alternative of shoes handmade by craftsmen.

According to Chen, the shoes advised by him are a belvedere for his barter to brand their individuality. But abounding Singaporean men are abashed to angle out from the army and adopt to abrasion “safe” shoes, he acicular out. To blow them out of their befitting tendency, accurate those who anticipate they are “too old” for beautiful footwear, Chen talks the allocution and walks the airing – in his own shoes.

“When I abrasion them myself, barter say ‘Goodness, he is so old, he can get abroad with it, so can I.’ Otherwise they don’t dare,” said Chen, who has two daughters.

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The contemporary grandfathering is affiliated to a Singaporean abecedary and has two sons with her. Abounding years afore ambience up The Wizard of Oz, the freewheeling Chen was antic a hippie hairdo, and he appear that he could not contemplate abiding to Singapore due to its antiseptic ambiance and arguable ban on continued beard then.  

Ultimately, Chen’s angle about appearance and shoes assemble with his abstract angle in life. Forget about the blow of the world, be a alert and appropriate individual, Chen exhorted.

“We alone alive once. Why anguish about what added bodies see or think? Aloof do what you want, aloof be chargeless and dress as your animosity acquaint you to.”

www.thewizardshoes.com  33 Ubi Ave 3, Vertex #03-34 Singapore 408868 Tel: (65) 6509 3929

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