Photography by Naeema Kapadia
Hasan Shehryar Yasin loves beautiful things. It was this desire to create beauty that led him into the world of fashion design. Today, the HSY label is one of the most prestigious in Pakistan and Hasan’s finely honed sense of design and aesthetics is a celebrated fact. All of this comes together in the majestic yet gracious HSY mansion, set in a leafy Karachi suburb, the designer now calls home. Warm and welcoming, Hasan showed us around this grand old residence and shared his design and life philosophy.
This is a beautiful old home. But you already had a studio and living space in another old building.
Yes that’s right I was leaving that space and the plan was to downsize. My life has taken something of a spiritual turn in the last year and I felt the need to move away from the trappings of a big social life.
I have turned to wellness and yoga and other projects for self growth and I wanted to move away from physical spaces that did not represent that. I wanted to get a small studio space. But I was driving by and saw this house and just decided to stop and go in. The house had not been occupied in a while but the owner happened to be there. It was fate. I stepped in and just knew that this was my home. I felt a certain calm, a stillness that I hadn’t felt before. So much so that I have chosen it as my primary residence over Lahore, even though my factory, my head office and my mother are all there.
So this house has rooted you in Karachi.
Absolutely. I moved to Karachi because of this space and I have enjoyed the process of fixing it up, even though I had no budget for this project. I was the interior designer and contractor. I pictured everything, drew everything and got it done. I wanted this space to be a home, the passion was different.
I shifted things around, used what I had. The chandeliers have been brought in from my mother’s house, without her knowledge by the way. She still hasn’t noticed. Well, she will know now (laughs).
You are very fond of entertaining. And this house, with its beautiful grounds, seems made for that.
Yes, I love to entertain. I have friends over all the time, the pool is very busy. I have had a few smaller dinners but no large parties as yet.
This house truly shines at night. I think I have done a good job with the lighting outside and the lawn looks beautiful at night.
There is a magnificent old tortoise in the lawn.
Yes. He came with the house and I call him Tubby. I was told he is over a hundred years old.
The HSY mansion has quite an eclectic vibe.
You know the eclectic vibe is also because I used the things I had. I didn’t get new things. So to keep some kind of theme, I stuck to a lot of black. Like these pieces from Yoca. I designed a line of furniture, HSY for Yoca, and some pieces are from that collection. So I think the monochromatic element keeps it together. The upstairs is all chocolate and ochres.
I also love this cabinet with the turbaned man which is from a company called Brat. There is another underlying theme. I get referenced a lot as the King of Couture. I like the word king, royalty has always fascinated me. I am a history student and my mother’s family were from the nobility. So I remember looking at pictures of bejeweled and turbaned ancestors.
You will find royals in the artwork. But you will find the queen hanging above the king, which is a tribute to my mother who was a single parent. She taught me to stand on my own feet through hardship and struggle.
You are very close to your mother. Has she visited the house? Did she like it?
You know, my mother only spent one night in my last Karachi home. She came here for one night and ended up staying for ten days. And she told me she hated the old place. She said it was not a home but a showpiece.
She is coming here again after Eid and bringing some friends with her.
Tell us about this wall of family photographs. These are lovely old photos, many of them from the pre partition era.
I am a big believer in family. I believe we need to know where we come from to understand where we are going to. And these pictures remind me that there are greater things than me and much more I can aspire to.
My mother’s paternal grandfather was the mayor of Lyalpur, now Faislabad. I love this picture in which my nana is featured but more than him, my mother points out this other gentleman who is the nana of Amitabh Bachchan. (laughs).
What is your favourite object in the home?
That would be my mother’s picture from her youth, she looks so beautiful. She is an educationist and still so busy with many projects. This photo is also pinched from her house.
What is your favourite space in the home?
My bedroom. It is very quiet and removed from the rest of the house. I like that it is large and empty. I’m a big pacer especially when I’m thinking. I will be listening to music or recording notes and pacing like crazy.
I also love the little balcony attached to my bedroom. I wake up early and sit out here with my tea. I have made it a habit to start my day by giving gratitude for ten things. And sitting in this balcony, overlooking my garden that becomes very easy.
Gratitude plays a big part in your life.
Growing up, I didn’t have it easy. I have been working jobs since I was eleven. I have flipped burgers, worked as a cashier, a delivery boy…you name it. Then in my youth I went blind for a long period.
When I was doing my A levels, doing two jobs, I would go to my friend’s house on the weekend to swim. And I would say, one day I want a pool. So when I see my pool now, I still marvel at where I am.
Over the years, so much has happened. I have dressed kings and queens, movers and shakers but I was running so fast, it wasn’t sinking in. Now I can accept it all, the good things and the limitations. And this house is part of that.
One can’t even imagine how traumatic losing your eyesight was. How has that shaped who you are.
Again, I have a lot more gratitude. I don’t have words for how I felt when my vision returned. At first, I could only see the colour red. For me red is the colour of life. You will see it featured in the entrance of my homes and there is more red in my collections than any other colour.
When you have tasted the lowest ebb, you lose fear. I know what it’s like to have nothing, not even my sight.
So what’s next for HSY?
My dream was to be a great designer, and I am if not great then at least a successful designer. I have been hosting a show on TV which is five seasons on now. I have even dabbled in film. Very few people know that I received several awards, including the National Film Award for a song I directed in the blockbuster Teray Pyaar Mein.
But more than anything else I am a storyteller. All my collections, videos, even instagram feeds, tell a story. So I would love to direct a film. Acting is also something I am very fond of and have pursued in my college days but direction would be my first love.
I also have great desire to open boutique hotels in Pakistan.
Would you be doing the interiors for such a project?
I definitely would. There is going to be a demand for such hotels now.