There are some emerging designers who attract a cult following from the get-go, and A Sai Ta is one of those. Staging his first collection in February 2017, supported by the star-making initiative Fashion East, his brand ASAI’s following has only grown over three subsequent seasons, interest piqued by clothes that speak of London’s zeitgeist without skimping on authenticity.
A graduate of Central Saint Martins and alumnus of The Row and Yeezy, Ta’s label is instantly recognisable by explosions of acidic colour, fabrics hand-worked with intricate techniques, and aesthetics borrowed from his Vietnamese and Chinese heritage. The ‘hot wok top’, for example – a body-con polo neck in brightly-hued patchwork tye die delivered to its buyers in noodle cartons – is now one of the most coveted pieces from the Woolrich-born designer’s repertoire.
Staged yesterday, his A/W19 show was his first as a standalone designer and saw him take on an altogether quieter approach. Titled Ground Up, the collection consisted of surprisingly muted, earthy tones, with the show notes even reading: “the hot wok has cooled”. Nevertheless, the signature garment remained – albeit in new iterations – its allure as potent as ever. Here, we speak with four fashion creatives about why that is.
Zaina Miuccia, Model
“I remember when I saw ASAI’s first collection as part of Fashion East’s A/W17 show. I was just like: ‘oh my god. I have to have these clothes!’ My aesthetic can be quite ‘surfer chic’ at times, and I really like tie dye. I love the colours he uses in his work and the way he puts them together, especially with the hot wok tops. There are so many to choose from. He’s dressed me in full looks before and also I’ve bought other stuff from him too – I’ve got a bomber jacket, skirts... One thing that I really loved was a pair of earrings that were freaking rolled-up 100 dollar bill notes! Very me. But the first night I went out and wore them I lost one, which was devastating. I want to get my hands on one of the one-shoulder dresses next.
“I just feel amazing when I wear ASAI. I actually wore a full look – a hot wok top with a plastic orange skirt – when I introduced my mom to my boyfriend for the first time. It was really out there, but you still feel so safe and cosy in the clothes. I love ASAI because I feel like anyone can wear it; fashion is very exclusive, but ASAI always feels inclusive. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are: everyone looks good in his clothes.”
Claire Burman, Creative Producer and Consultant
“I bought my hot wok top last summer. I remember trekking all the way to Seven Sisters to go to his studio and pick it up! I probably first encountered his work via Fashion East. And one day, on Instagram, he was selling these tops and I knew I had to have one. There are so many colourways and it was actually a total surprise as to which one mine would be when I got to the studio! Luckily, I love bright colours, and mine is orange, blue, brown, yellow and black. I feel like the hot wok tops are really versatile; you can wear them to work underneath a blazer or you can wear a sexy bra underneath and wear them out. They’re so small that I’ve definitely scrunched mine up in my bag and taken it out with me to change into. They’re super comfortable, too. I think he’ll go onto make so many more interesting pieces and I can’t wait to see what they will be.”
Dominic Cadogan, Fashion Writer at Dazed Digital
“When I first saw A Sai’s work in 2017 I remember thinking it was one of the most exciting shows I’d seen in a really long time and I was losing my shit. I remember the hot wok tops in that collection kind of burst into a frisson of threads – it was like, thousands and thousands of metres of threads to make up each garment and I was so intrigued by it all. I was also interested in him as a person. I kept an eye on him and I remember the next season was really, really strong as well. It was around that time that I got my first hot wok top.
“I wondered if it was going to be too flamboyant for me but then I saw it in an editorial styled with a pair wide-legged blue jeans by Martine Rose. It was such an amazing combination. So that’s mostly how I wear it now. It’s such a good piece for wearing under things, as well. I went to a graduate fashion show in Switzerland and I wore it with lots of layers because it was freezing cold. I styled it with a hoodie under a coat and you could just sort of see the accents of colour poking out of the cuffs and around the neckline. It’s now become such a statement piece that so many people want. I remember I went to Dover Street Market to look at them on the day they first arrived in store but they had sold out in the space of a few hours and there was literally only one left! Really, they’re just great to look at. I think that’s the appeal.”
Naomi Elizée, Fashion Market Assistant, American Vogue
“My colleague was wearing a hot wok top in the office one day – I think it was a pink, a blue and green combination. It was beautiful. I remember asking her where it was from and she told me about A Sai and the brand. And then three weeks later, I saw another one of my colleagues wearing one in green. And I was like ‘holy moly, I am obsessed!’. I wasn’t sure which colour I wanted – to be honest, I wanted all of them – but I chose a pink one. The fabric itself is so smart. It’s like a stocking fabric and it’s so nice against the skin. It allows you to be stylish, whilst feeling free – I can put a shirt under it, but also nothing underneath if I’m going out!
“I wear it to the office, too, styled with white pants and some good boots or a simple white button-up. I love a pop of colour in the bleak winter. I even wear it to our big fashion team meetings with Anna [Wintour]. What I love about it is it’s totally unique – it’s not something you could go and buy a version of in Zara, for example. I know my hot wok top is something that I will wear forever – it’s timeless and going to look just as fire in five years as it does now. What he does it just so brilliant. I wish I was going to London to see his latest A/W19 show.”