Five-year-old women’s wear brand Asava is already in the major league, right up there with Disaya or Ek Thongprasert. Polpat Asavaprapha, 43, the founder, speaks of his journey, from heir of a wealthy family of car dealers to celebrated fashion designer.
I’m passive aggressive. I always knew what I truly wanted to do but my priority was doing my duty; being a good son to make my parents happy. 
 
Being born in a family with a big business [Toyota PS Enterprise] doesn’t give you much of a choice in life. Parents will just expect you to take care of the business after them. So in my case, it was really hard to change my way of life and become a designer.
 
I was chosen by fashion. I never felt I could live doing my family business. But the Thai fashion magazines at home drew me in. Soon, I was wandering around town looking for Vogue’s foreign editions. It all happened naturally.
 
Reading opened my world. It inspired me. It taught me that there are so many beautiful things out there, outside of the business world.
 
Everyone should explore. After working at an advertising agency for years, I made a big decision: I went to New York to explore what I wanted to do with my life. 
 
I sold everything, from my car to my home, to fund my trip to New York. My parents cut me off, just to test if I really was serious about fashion or if it was just a childish dream. I can proudly say that they are marvelous parents.
 
I couldn’t draw. And I didn’t have a portfolio to get into a fashion school. I sneaked back to Thailand and, luckily, I met Kru To [M.L. Jirathorn Jiraprawat] who taught me how to draw. I was so bad at it that he even said that I was never going to be a designer in this life. But he finally got me in. He helped me make a portfolio and I got into the Parson School of Design.
 
Everyone is born twice. First, you are born to this earth. Second, you are born spiritually. New York is where I was born spiritually. I finally got jobs in fashion, like being an intern at Marc Jacobs, a merchandiser at Giorgio Armani and a fashion director at Max Mara. I was living my dream.
 
Nothing is more important than your loved ones. After staying in the States for 10 years, I moved back to Thailand because my dad was severely ill. I was heartbroken when I came back because I really wanted to be living my dream in NYC. But choosing between my dad and my dream, I had no choice. So I finally came back and became the CEO of my parents’ company.
 
We all try to find the most comfortable place to live. We’re like a fish that tries to swim back to the waters it was born in. I finally quit the company after working there for three years and started doing my fashion brand, Asava, in 2008. 
 
I was just a crazy designer, doing a brand armed with only passion. But with every collection, we’re growing up, too. We learned lots of lessons in five years. Now, it’s still just the beginning of Asava.
 
There is no perfect time to start a business. No matter how prepared you are, there will always be obstacles. I love to try stuff out, do it wrong, learn from it and start over again right away. If you feel you’re ready, you can overcome anything.
 
I always relate to my designs. My new collection is from the feelings I got looking at the works of Roy Lichtenstein—a famous pop-art artist—when I viewed his paintings at the Tate Modern in London. Then I mixed in my love for New York, The Big Apple. 
 
The emerging middle class has accelerated Thailand’s fashion industry. We used to have only department stores and bespoke tailoring. When people have more money, they want to spend it to define their identity. That’s where Thai fashion brands can serve them.
 
We will never be a fashion city if we’re still solely a manufacturing country. Thailand doesn’t have any strong brands that can lead or change people’s lives internationally. Japan has Sony, Korea has Samsung. We need to create this, too. It must be a national policy to make it happen. 
 
People violate copyright because we [Thais] never create things that we’re proud of. 
 
Fashion is valuable when it tells a story to those who wear it. When I see a confident woman wearing my clothes to project her identity, her taste and the story of her life, that’s what I call successful fashion. It’s my biggest pride. 
 
Authentic beauty is what I strive for. Beautiful women are those who are comfortable with their own skin. I see women today who try to look beautiful by putting foreign objects on and in their bodies, like fake eyelashes, or injecting whitening chemicals. They all look alike. 
 
My greatest achievement would be seeing people benefit from what I’ve created. I have no wife, no kids, so I dedicate my life to fashion, to making others happy. I dream of creating an art museum, too, but that’s a bit too big for me to pull off right now.
 
Troubles keep you grounded. It reminds you that everything can happen and you can’t control it. Anyway, your troubles won’t be there forever. Just figure out how to live with them.
 
Any dream job without motivation is just that, a dream. I find out many kids have big dreams but they don’t have the passion to actually put it into practice it. 
 
The fashion industry is a tough game. How do you fight with big global brands? You need real passion.
 
You must have faith. No matter what happens, faith is what keeps you moving on.