Hawaiian post-pop artist Aaron Kai is quite a personality, and none of that is lost in translation when he picks up the paintbrush. For years now he’s been making waves all over the world, and quite literally.
During his stop in Singapore en tour of the Pacific Rim with Official, Aaron launched the capsule collection for the headwear brand.
The collection features a series of caps and bucket hats (can never have enough of those) boasting his signature artworks – largely inspired by waves, nature and colours of Hawaii. It’s aptly carried in Sup Clothing along the quirky meander of Haji Lane, a district not unfamiliar to the local streetwear fiend.
As the sun set over an anticipative crowd all boozed up and ready to bust their moves to DJ KoFlow’s eclectic hip-hop tunes, we sat down with Aaron to talk about the rest of the Official tour, Japanese Curry and artists/creatives on Instagram.
Q: Hey Aaron, hope the Official tour’s been treating you well! Which country has been the highlight for you so far?
I really like Hong Kong, because as an artist, Hong Kong was a spot that was really supportive of art. I met with a gallery and now I’ve my first solo gallery exhibition in May. So after our last stop in Korea, I’m gonna go back to Hong Kong, do my own thing and have my show, and finally head back to California for a little while.
Q: Is that where your tour ends, for now?
Well Korea’s the last stop for the Asia tour, but we’re gonna do one in Europe too, starting with Germany.
Q: How long have you been into art?
My whole life, but I’ve been taking it more seriously and grinding and trying to make it happen… perhaps the last two and a half years.
Q: And what was that point where you started to really break through and earn from it?
I actually went to this Japanese curry restaurant – you know the kind with rice and fried chicken cutlet – my friend said it was really good and we should eat there. I always walked past it. It was real cosy, there’s maybe like eight seats only, so it was a really intimate setting.
The shop owner was asking what we do for a living so I told him “I’m an artist, I paint, I draw and design clothes…” and he seemed really interested in it. Because he was into streetwear as well, he’s an older guy – maybe early thirties – and he was really into shoes and sneakers so we just connected.
So I was showing him some of my art work and he was like, “Oh, how much is that one?” and then he bought it! He went back, asked his wife and three days later texted to tell me he wanted it. That was the first painting I sold.
Q: A lot of people have been taking advantage of online platforms to sell their work. Do you think that now it’s easier as an artist, with this accessibility?
I hate to say this, but I feel like some people – not everyone – would do something on Instagram or social media because it makes them look cool. When at the end of the day I do art because I love doing art. And I love seeing people’s reactions to it?
You don’t need to have a physical space to sell anything anymore, but on the downside, you have all those people who aren’t as passionate about it and just want to be Instagram-famous. I think the trick is that you have to take it from online and offline. Like what we’re doing right now is stuff in person, at the shop so I think you need to have a balance.
But I definitely think it’s a good tool to have as an artist, as a creative. It’s a good portfolio like when you show people – even websites are a lot of hassle to go to now. But now you just have to pull out your profile and see if we click.
Q: Is there any long-term goal you’re looking at which you hope to achieve at the end of the tour?
I think a gallery show is a short-term goal I can tick off the list. In the long run I don’t think any of this will happen yet, but I do want to do a shoe collab.
Q: Speaking of which, what are your go-to sneaks?
I wear a lot of Nike and adidas. I like the Air Max 1, 90 and 95, and my favourite are from the Fourth of July pack, the rubberised Air Max 90? I went to Undefeated one day and they still had them in my size so I was like, “Holy sh*t! These are rare” so I bought ’em, and later that week, Kanye West attacked a paparazzi and he was wearing them. So you go on eBay and they’re selling at nine hundred bucks. And I got them at retail!
Q: That’s crazy lucky! How are you liking Singapore, though?
I really like all the people I’ve met – everyone’s pretty cool and been showing us all the food spots. We had a lot of Indian food. They have Indian food in San Francisco but it’s not as authentic, obviously. But we’ve had a lot of good food and drank a lot.
Q: Did you get to do any more paintings here?
Sadly no, but I got to paint a wall in Guam and two in Hong Kong. But now I’m excited to go home, back in my space where I’m comfortable, so I can paint and really get in the zone. That’s what I’m actually most excited about, as bad as that might seem.
Q: Not at all, I’m sure many can relate. So home for you isn’t Hawaii now?
I grew up in Hawaii and my family’s there, but my home now is in San Francisco, because it’s like a bigger city, people are more open-minded, and it’s just an easier place to live than Hawaii, where the nearest place is a five-hour flight away.
It was a great experience touring Asia, but after a while you just miss home.
From what we hear, Aaron’s had helluva ride whether on the road or getting busy back home. He is also self-admittedly quite the Snapchat wh*re, so follow @aaronkkai for Keeping Up With The Kai’s (his words, not ours).
To get your hands on Aaron Kai x Official merchandise, visit Sup at
34 Haji Lane
Mon – Sun (1pm to 8pm)