Fashion designer, event planner, choreographer … Hassan Shehryar Yasin — commonly known as HSY and Shero to his friends — is, above all, a showman. He’ll traipse down the catwalk amidst whirring cameras and a shower of confetti, grinning easily, basking in the limelight. He’ll dance at the Lux Style Awards (LSAs) with actress Reema and match her step for step, and then some more. With his spot-on, often florid sense of personal style, he’ll stand out wherever he is; friends with everybody who’s anybody and a regular feature at all the ‘it’ parties.
Even when he’s working behind-the-scenes as a choreographer, HSY’s love for drama and flamboyance is emulated onto the catwalk. A cricket match on the catwalk? A 3D HSY with models twined around it? That’s just up Shero’s alley.
Although he’s choreographed shows since 1994 when he was merely 17, more than ever now, he seems to be taking it on full-throttle. He has been spearheading the Pakistan Fashion Design Council’s (PFDC) catwalks for some time now and just recently, he choreographed other mainstream fashion events like Pantene Bridal Couture Week (PBCW) and Karachi Fashion Week Men’s Fashion 2013. Soon, he plans to officially launch his event management company.
That’s just one hat he wears. HSY, of course, is also one of the country’s most popular bridal couturiers and has had the business acumen to extend his design house to far more profitable pastures in the UK and the USA. As a longstanding board member and founding director of the very credible Lahore-based PFDC, he plays a major role in the council’s decisions.
But this doesn’t mean that Shero doesn’t have his detractors. As he commits more of his time to choreography, many fashion critics feel that his latest collections have lost their spark, edging towards the run-of-the-mill. There’s only so much that one man can do, even if he’s veritably buzzing with energy the way HSY is. He’s also notorious for putting out delayed fashion showcases, the audience having to sit for long durations as he preps the stage for his quintessential drama. And he’s certainly not known for his modesty — his Twitter handle, alone, declares him to be a ‘Couture King’ and his choreographic team declares itself to be the ‘Dream Team at HSY’.
“We call ourselves the Dream Team because we really do endeavor to spin dreams on the catwalk,” he tells Images on Sunday. “It also makes us feel good about what we’re doing. As for the Twitter handle, when I joined Twitter, there were 17 HSYs there already. Harper’s Bazaar and the LSAs had both pronounced me as the King of Couture in 2007. With an international and local platform giving me the accolade, I thought that there was no harm in adopting it myself.”
Does he personally consider himself a ‘Couture King’ though? “I just think that while fashion critics may put down a collection, a designer’s real success lies in the business that he does,” he says. “And business, for me, has never been better.”
All in a day’s work So how does Shero run his thriving business when he’s investing so much time into choreographing fashion events? “I launched my label 13 years ago and I wouldn’t be a good businessman if I wasn’t able to delegate work and leave for a few days,” he says. “And I don’t understand how some critics can say that I can’t design as well as choreograph. Creating a fashion week collection involves detailed work and takes months to create — my collection for the PFDC’s bridal week in October is already complete. Choreographing a fashion week is hard work but it only takes me away from my design house for a few days.”
And even in the days when he is away — choreographing, showing at an international fashion week or meeting clients abroad — the House of HSY tries its best to give its clients a unique experience. The studio in itself, located in Lahore’s Gulberg area, is sumptuously done in beige and gold, bedecked with framed images of Shero. There are three bridal studios, a separate studio for the groom, changing rooms, alteration rooms and a large space set aside for couture and ready-to-wear.
“A woman may come into our studio because she has heard of our brand but she’ll only buy something if she likes what she sees,” explains Shero. “Brides-to-be are generally anxious to discuss details with the head designer. If I am in the city, I definitely make it a point to see them and if I am away, Skype often suffices.”
Strangely, the brand hasn’t yet banked onto online sales in a big way. “We do take orders through our website and over e-mail but I prefer not to sell through online multi-label sites,” he says. “Our ready-to-wear is more formal, with embroideries and detailings, and consequently costs more. As a one-off piece in our store, where the client can feel and appreciate the garment, it sells very well. At a multi-label website, where clothes are often priced below Rs5,000, the HSY designs strike customers as too expensive.”
Altruism, fashionably speaking The brand’s forte remains on-order bridals and bridal trousseau — even the enterprising copycat karigars dotted along Lahore’s markets like Liberty earn bucket loads by replicating HSY designs. With business doing well, why does he even want to delve into choreography? Is it for the additional income, fame or both?
“Neither,” confesses Shero. “My income is through my design house and I’ve only ever aspired to share my achievements with my mother. The money I earn through choreography is not that much and it is, actually, my way of giving back to the industry. It’s something I understand and do well. The dramatics I create for the catwalk create a buzz around our fashion weeks.”
“I don’t agree with people who say that catwalk drama draws away attention from the clothes being showcased. Even internationally, Chanel always puts out a show that is over-the-top while Oscar de la Renta prefers to be simple and straightforward. Chanel doesn’t need the drama in order to sell its products but the catwalk emulates its brand philosophy.”
“Similarly, when I am directing a show, I try to depict what the brand is trying to say,” he professes. “A Karma show, for instance, is usually about frivolous fun. Sublime likes to bring out groups of models in single blocks of colour. I sit with the designer and discuss his or her brand philosophy and then translate it into a fantastic show.”
Council talk His flamboyance, of course, is most apparent in the PFDC’s fashion weeks. Shero’s altruism for fashion goes hand in hand with his loyalty to the council which admittedly, through regular, efficient fashion weeks has played a major role in taking Pakistani fashion forward. “What makes the PFDC work so well is that we all help each other out. Sehyr Saigol is a wonderful leader and there are no ego battles going on between council members.”
For the mere reason that the PFDC’s fashion weeks are based in Lahore, Shero’s ready-to-wear hasn’t been aired out on Karachi’s catwalks for the longest time. “I don’t think it’s important,” he says. “I do show my bridals at Pantene Bridal Couture Week and recently, my menswear at Karachi Fashion Week Men’s Fashion and both these events took place in Karachi. The House of HSY is probably the most consistent label in the country — showcasing a bridal and a ready-to-wear collection at PFDC’s fashion weeks and then going on to show them at international events. The PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week (PSFW) takes place in Lahore but it gets covered by print and electronic media from all over the country. That’s enough publicity to keep us happy and we have clients filtering in from Karachi and Peshawar every weekend.”
But still, his main clientele remains from the Punjab — Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Rawalpandi and Islamabad, among others. Doesn’t he think that a show in Karachi would be good for business? This April, the PSFW featured quite a few Karachi-based designers who wanted to build upon their markets in Lahore. Shouldn’t he try to do the same — or, if nothing else, try to orchestrate a PFDC event in Karachi? “Does Milan Fashion Week take place anywhere else other than Milan? I don’t think where the fashion week takes place is important as long as it is regular and showcases credible talent.”
Does he at least plan on making fashion weeks more punctual? “We only get delayed because people don’t arrive on time. Besides, people will complain no matter what, even though they know that fashion weeks in Pakistan inevitably end late. Nobody turns into a pumpkin just because it’s past midnight. I said as much at the last PSFW,” he laughs.
That’s quintessential HSY for you — candid, caustic, always with a wisecrack up his sleeves. People may love him, hate him, critique him but they certainly can’t bring him down. He’s too energetic, intelligent and experienced for that — a spunky, indelible cogwheel in the world of Pakistani fashion.