“Every one wakes up with this fear…What if I have nothing ? What if all is taken away ?… I have been there, I don’t have anything to fear now. I know what it is like to survive on a piece of bread for two days. I know how it is to not see your mother for the entire week, because she is working nights while you go to school in the morning. I know what it is like to save 25 paisas and buy a Pepsi and I remember how that Pepsi tastes, the joy that Pepsi brings you because you know that’s probably the only quarter you can spare for Pepsi for the next 3 weeks. I have been there, I have been that kid. It makes no difference to me. I am fearless now. HSY is fearless.”
We had no idea that the one question we begin all our interviews with: “How did it all begin ?”…would lead us into a profoundly inspirational and soul searching journey; one that we, at FUCHSIA, are truly humbled to bring to you. We are in conversation with none other than the King of Pakistani High Fashion, Brand Ambassador for Porsche, Director of all 6 Fashion Weeks, the owner of the most recognisable brand in Pakistan – HSY, Hassan Sheheryar Yasin, famously known as Sheroo.
On the insistence of his mother, he joined a fashion school and supported himself with 4 jobs.
I remember newspapers getting my name wrong and calling me Hassan Jehangir; he has a great future. I graduated at the top of my class. I was directing shows throughout. My name was all over the newspapers. But when I went to seek a job, I couldn’t find one. I approached all the designers. You name it , not a single person gave me a job. They would say, “What does a boy know about fashion ?” “No, we don’t want to hire someone who is already in the business.”
FUCHSIA: Do you think it was because they felt threatened by you?
HSY: I give respect to those few people who were honest and felt threatened by me. I won’t take any names. Three of them told me: “See, your name is already in the newspapers, they might not know you as a designer but they know you as a choreographer and we don’t want to walk the ramp and say HSY is in our team, as it will steal our thunder. ” The rest pronounced, ” You don’t have any talent.”
I Graduated in the year 2000. For the next 6 years, I directed shows all over. I was being talked about as the youngest director to direct a show. Yet, I had no job. I was paying for my schooling. My sister was getting married and I had no money. So I said: “Ok, forget about all these people. I will do it on my own.” I think I only had about 2000 Rupees at that time. So I bought a machine from that money. I didn’t have money for fabric, so I went home, picked up my curtains, mom’s curtains, whatever I could find in the house and prepared 5 pieces. Then I called upon a friend, who was just starting in the industry. I told Iman Ali: “Let’s do this, I think you can be a great model.” We used to call her Mona at that time.
My sister had these two friends who were very close to my mom, they would come around almost every day and eat daal-chaawal with my mom – Athar & Shahzad. I requested them to please help with the shoot at a friend’s house. So we shot this campaign and I sent it to all the magazines in Pakistan. In January, I was on the cover of 5 magazines. After that, there was no looking back.
If you think the story ends here, you are wrong. It is indeed hard, infact impossible to imagine, that HSY was once lying in a hospital bed with his face unrecognisable and his eyesight completely lost, due to a car accident.
“It was 1993 – After 16 surgeries and spending an entire year in complete blindness, I got my eye sight back. The first color that I could see was RED. Kiran Bokhari, my best friend, Tahira Syed’s daughter, would visit me everyday and wear Red. For me, it was the color of life. I would be so happy. It’s still the color of life for me. I am known for my red color; the HSY Red Bridals. So if you see the HSY Red, you will notice that no one else does that shade. I add red in every single piece I create.”
After getting his eye sight back, one day, HSY went to audition for a fashion show. He hadn’t gone there to model, infact, he had gone to see how he could contribute and be part of the Fashion world. While everyone at the show stared, ridiculed or ignored him, he spoke to a fashion designer who was participating in the show and convinced her to let him direct her part of the show. “I had always loved music and fashion. The show went very well, it was a huge success.”
FUCHSIA: How did that accident affect you then? Has it made you humble?
HSY: I am glad it happened, because I have nothing to fear now. I don’t know if it has humbled me… I won’t say that I am a humble person. I believe that self encouragement is very important. In a place where we are surrounded by negativity, creativity has no chance to survives unless there is self encouragement. I am a very sensitive soul, and in order to keep myself happy, I keep telling myself: “You have done this, this, and this. Bravo!… now keep going, keep going.” But I don’t make long term plans. I don’t sit down and say, “10 years later I will do this, because I don’t know if I will have 10 years.”
Because this is how I used to be, I was in the car about to break my fast when the accident happened, and I was angry at everyone when they were taking me to hospital. I thought they had placed a cloth over my eyes and that’s why it was so dark. Little did I know that I had actually gone blind. I was more angry, because it had come in the way of my schedule. So the accident made me realise that nothing is permanent, nothing is in your control. It’s all temporary. If I go to sleep tonight and wake up the next day, this sounds super cheesy, but I am actually happy.
FUCHSIA: You feel strongly that only trained designers should be designing Lawn ?
HSY: Just as a nurse with however many years of experience under her belt cannot do the job of a trained surgeon, I feel a proper education is very important for whichever profession you choose. A trained designer will not only look at the aesthetics of the designs he/she produces but will also ensure the longevity and strength of the product. The stark difference between Professionally Designed lawn and Just-Designed lawn can be easily seen in the sales volume and product quality.
FUCHSIA: Travel means a lot to you – tell us what travelling does for you, personally and professionally.
HSY: You go to a place that overwhelms you with emotions and sensations that you cannot describe. You want to keep it a secret and share it with the world at the same time. So I try to integrate these surreal experiences in my work as much as I can. It also inspires the work that I do. Like this year, my Prêt Line features different cultures and customs that influenced me on my tours in an attempt to bring the world to Pakistan.
FUCHSIA: Have you ever had to turn away a bride because her ‘Dream Wedding Dress ‘and ‘HSY-Style’ just did not go hand-in-hand?
HSY: This has never happened. Every bride dreams of wearing the perfect dress for her special day and that is what HSY-Style is all about. I follow a process where I discuss ideas with the brides. They tell me what they want and I mould it into the HSY-Style.
FUCHSIA: How is the consumer of 2015 different from the consumer in 2000?
HSY: People today have become more aware of the latest fashion scene. With the increased number of fashion bloggers, people are now more alert about what is happening in the fashion world and they all want to be a part of it. So today’s consumer is very astute and knows what he/she wants.