If a picture is worth a thousand words, Robert Herjavec would likely argue that a good suit is worth 10 times that. And the 46-year-old business titan knows his suits. "I can tell an Armani from a Boss," he says, "but I can't always tell a Canali from a Brioni or a Kiton. But boy, you can sure tell a Tom Ford." A star of CBC's Dragon's Den (and ABC's lookalike show, Shark Tank), and CEO of the Herjavec Group, a $50-million Toronto-based company specializing in internet security systems, Herjavec understands the power of tailoring. "It never ceases to amaze me," he says, "how many people take so little care about their personal style. I don't know whether they believe that there's an arrogance in dressing well, but I think that in this day and age, where you're flooded with data and touch points, you have to make an impression even faster than you did before."
Herjavec's opinions about making impressions - how your clothes communicate your identity and potential to the world - are woven through a new business/self-help book he is set to launch in the fall with HarperCollins. For him, fashion is serious business. Each night, he heads to his cherry wood closet in his 50,000-square-foot Toronto home and lays out his wardrobe for the next day. At about 700 square feet, it's a luxurious closet, but hey, with 1,000-plus ties, you need space.
The son of blue-collar Croatian immigrants, he grew up in a home where fashion was a non-issue; impressions rested on being well scrubbed, he says. Where then, did this self-made man learn his style lessons? Herjavec shares the story of his first computer sales job. He was a keener, but dressed so poorly that his boss called him on it. When the 20-year-old went to Harry Rosen to buy a suit, he balked at the prices, but then did the math. Given his meagre salary, he quit and began working for the retailer, knowing that, every six months, Rosen's policy dictated a new-suit bonus.
"Harry had a huge impact on my life," says Herjavec. "He used to say a well-dressed man has an overall appearance that tries to make a point. ... People think to dress well you need a lot of money and you need a lot of suits. What I learned is that it's better to buy one really good suit and accessorize it with a wardrobe than buy five not-so-good suits."
The point Herjavec makes? After exiting his office, you recall his engaged blue eyes, his easy manner and understated polish, from the Rolex watch and striped shirt down to his lace-up Ferragamos, which, by the way, are of a leather not dissimilar to the upholstery of his private jet and limited-edition Smart Car - which sits in the family garage alongside an Aston Martin, Lamborghinis and a Rolls Royce.
When asked about silver-screen inspirations, it's Gordon Gecko in the 1987 blockbuster, Wall Street, who Herjavec mentions. "There's the scene where he buys the airline and he walks out onto the trading floor with these irate shareholders and he's wearing a dark navy suit with a white shirt and a blue tie with small white dots and he begins to talk, and his entire presence is so powerful and so calming," he says. 'That confidence he exudes: that, for me, is the iconic sense of style."
Herjavec does possess a Hollywood air, but there are no pretensions. His is a generous spirit: he chose to support Team for Kids during his recent New York City marathon run, and snooping around his office, one spies a plaque documenting his "celebrity clown" status for the Toronto Santa Claus parade. Not to mention the gesture of charity exhibited when he and his wife opened up their Bridal Path home for a Princess Margaret Hospital fundraiser, where his mother was treated for ovarian cancer before her death. "Life is a journey," says Herjavec, "and none of us got here on our own. It is the universal truth that I believe - we must help those we meet along the way."
In appreciation of Mr. Herjavec's appearance in these pages, Harry Rosen
is making a donation to the Division of Medical Oncology and Hermatology
at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.
Robert Herjavec's sales associate is Jason Green of our Bloor Street, Toronto, store.