Friday was all about Hassan Sheheryar Yasin and his newly refurbished mansion. A guided tour organized for the media, earlier in the evening, made way for a night of celebration with the who’s who of fashion and entertainment. Pakistan’s new generation of top designers from Karachi and Lahore, movie stars, television actors, influencers, fashion models and the crème of society turned up to bask in the glow of an illumine moon on a crisp Karachi winter evening. The vibe was great and one could easily be convinced that the future of fashion and entertainment in Pakistan was very bright.
Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, HSY or simple Sheroo to friends, officially opened very grand doors to his mansion, which has taken over a year to refurbish as he was painstakingly restoring as much of its original character as possible; the colourful mosaic floor, the stain glass roshandan (ventilators) and woodwork that lent it palatial dimensions.
“This needs to be a place where we celebrate Pakistani heritage,” he said. The interior was positively grand but even more fascinating was the layout of the mansion, divided into couture galleries, client spaces, archival walls and a ‘red room,’ which is an integral part of every HSY studio.
“The red room is for stars,” Hassan explained when giving the tour. “It has a separate entrance so that no one has to see them come and go and it’s not open to stylists to come, pick and choose. This is part of the star experience, where we sit down and talk with a celebrity about a look for a certain occasion. It has to be discussed and well-thought out. It has to be special.”
The same level of special treatment is extended to brides and grooms in different segments of the mansion, he explained. But would the designer always be around to extend that honour to his clients?
“I’ll be spending ten days in Lahore and ten days in Karachi every month,” he informed. He had even designed a personal residential suite on the second floor, for himself and any guests that may want to stay at the mansion too. And what about the remaining ten days, one asked, familiar with his love for travel. “You know that we’ve started sourcing fabric from Italy,” he suggested with a smile.
The launch was important as it marked 24 years of HSY. “I choreographed my first show for Nilofer Shahid exactly 24 years ago and I have to say I have achieved a lot and learnt a lot.” The big announcement, on this eve, was also the launch of HMP, the HSY Mentorship Program, in which the designer explained how four deserving candidates with an interest in fashion would be selected from a cross section of society (not necessarily fashion students) and mentored at the HSY Mansion every season.
“What will we teach them,” he questioned aloud. “Everything. We’ll teach them how to walk, talk and think like a designer. How to make and market and brand clothes. We’ll teach them everything they need to know and we want to help them discover what they do best.”
The program would be completely free of cost and in fact, deserving students who were unable to take leave from their day jobs, would be allotted a stipend to keep them financially afloat. Moreover, the program would also fund new brands for students that had been mentored under the HMP. It sounded like a huge and idyllic undertaking but if it goes according to plan then this will be a very welcome CSR activity from a successful brand.
Hassan also spoke about cultural integration and how more exchange was necessary. He was in talks with Alliance Francais, he shared, to screen French movies at the HSY Mansion as part of a cultural experience for guests and students. He had marked one wall of his mansion for photographers wishing to display their work. And he had offered designers his space for exhibition and showcase purposes, free of cost. This would be fashion’s GHQ, one felt, if such a thing could exist.
As the press-meet ended and the night picked up on the heels of party-goers, one thing became evident. Hassan Sheheryar Yasin is a man made for greater things than simply designing. The way he brought people together that night showed that if anyone could bridge the divide between Lahore and Karachi and bring fashion on to one united fashion platform, he could. All he had to do was put his mind to it.