The secret behind the success of brand HSY may well be that the man HSY has never been one to shy away from publicity. Be it a promotional multimedia projection screened before the start of his show about the design house, or the impression you get when you walk into his studio in Gulberg, Lahore; Hassan Sheheryar Yasin’s label HSY cannot be faulted for being too understated at any point. Walk into the flagship store and you will see the doors as well as the reception emblazoned with the HSY logo, framed magazine covers with the designer’s image on them or fashion shoots done by the label adorning the walls.
Yes, Hassan Sheheryar Yasin makes his presence felt. And that contributes to making his designer label immensely popular. An example of this would be the Facebook page, which, Yasin tells me 218,762 people ‘like’, giving them maximum fan following among other Pakistani designers on the social-networking site. ‘HSY The King of Couture’ proclaims the Facebook page, echoing the title bestowed on him by an issue of Harpers Bazaar some time ago – ‘the new king of couture’.
Flamboyance is a running theme, indeed. When asked to define the brand’s identity, Yasin says that is a very big question.
“HSY’s aim has always been to be more than a brand, to be about a lifestyle. I wanted to create an image that is larger than life.”
And that lifestyle is about “unapologetic glamour; we sell desire to want to be that much more – that is what HSY has always been about.”
As a designer, Yasin certainly brings his own personality to the brand.
“I have always led a life that has those values. I love to do what I am doing every single day. I am truly a spirited person. HSY is about me to a great extent.”
As a design house, HSY is best loved for ostentatious bridals that have an old world charm. However, Yasin is a versatile designer. The western wear he shows depicts a design sensibility that may just be what is required for exports; the clothes often have a western cut with ethnic embellishment. The result is an aesthetically appealing ensemble which can be worn in any city in the world. And the label has shown in many a city of the world – Amman, Athens, Delhi, London, Los Angeles, Mauritius, Montreal, Mumbai, New York, Prague, Riyadh and Toronto to name some.
A design house that has travelled the world in 10 years cannot just happen without some savvy marketing and edgy groundwork backing it. Yasin may say that he is not a marketing major; “I don’t know what the catchphrases and keywords are,” but, he feels “it’s an inborn ability”.
And the label’s success story is testament to the ability he thinks is an inborn trait in people.
“I think you need to have a gut instinct rather than textbook formulae. And I think that is something I have always had – I have always known what people want.”
Marketing, he emphasises “is key – it’s as important as your product. If one is weak the other will fall and vice versa.”
If that is true for marketing, advertising is no less important – at least to HSY. Clearly he has never been one to believe in the no-advertising theory for his label, like Zara, to quote a foreign label, or Bunto Kazmi, to quote a local example. Quite the contrary, Yasin claims he is entirely responsible for having “shaken everyone else into advertising”.
Before he started off the trend, it wasn’t being done, he says. And states, “I will eat humble pie for other things but not this!” (Although he smiles off the query when asked what are the other things for which he would be happy to eat humble pie.)
The label does have a methodology as far as advertising for its various lines – ready-to-wear, HSY Resort, menswear, bridal, couture, World of HSY Prints – is concerned. There is a bridal campaign they do with celebrities who wore HSY on their wedding, there is the lookbook (sent to special clientele only) which is published twice a year.
“The lookbook is broken into ad shoots to maintain a consistent look (we don’t do shoots), I speak on television a lot (we call that TV advertising) and there is celebrity endorsement – which is celebrities wearing our clothes.”
So yes, there is a lot of advertising, but not necessarily in the most clichéd of manners, which is the fashion shoot. Although the lawn launch has been given ad space in the manner best loved by lawn designers – through billboards. Still, even there, there is something that sets apart this designer’s lawn from that of others – from the marketing perspective. Where others have had exhibitions in two or three cities, lawn from this label was sold in eight cities, “so that we go to the customer, the customer doesn’t have to come to us.”
Having come this far, Yasin says his progress as a designer has gone as he planned.
“When I started out I had a certain niche in mind, and I have got there. It’s been a fantastic progress.”
At 36, he is comfortable enough to be able to say “by now I think it’s pretty evident how much we have achieved”.
“HSY have promoted Pakistan more than anyone else, and that’s something we want to continue. We have made it matter to have ‘made in Pakistan’ on the label.”
Still, resting on one’s laurels is not for the likes of him. The label is constantly trying out new avenues, be it in the form of collaborations or new ventures. Collaborations, which, he says are “essential to us, and important for the industry to develop,” have been undertaken with Bareeze, Luscious, Nirala, and Stoneage, to name some. The latest, in fact, is a SAARC initiative by the name of SABAH (SAARC Business Association For Home-Based Workers).
“SABAH needs us but we also need them – we lend the power of our image to other brands to benefit from as well.”
The SABAH project is an initiative to promote economic and social empowerment of female artisans across Pakistan. With so many fingers in the pie, it is little wonder that the designer at the helm of it all states,
“I don’t know anyone busier than myself; we are always doing something new. I would love to do so many more things, but I would have to clone myself to achieve that.”
Among his achievements, Yasin counts the recognition he has given his country abroad.
“We have promoted Pakistan more than anyone else, and that’s something we want to continue. We have made it matter to have ‘made in Pakistan’ on the label.”
The label is going places this year as well, after showing at Dubai Fashion Week in April, they are showing in London in May, and New York in June.
“We are always ahead of the game,” he says.
“The moment you think everything is perfect you might as well shut down shop.”
Fareeha Rafique is a Lahore-based journalist. *firstname.lastname@example.org***