There may be just a handful of eccentric personalities out there which intrigue you every time you speak to them. They always fascinate you in a completely new way, leaving you in awe every time you are in the same space as them. One such fine example is that of the enigma who holds one too many avatars. Meet the designer, poet, motivational speaker, storyteller, musician, farmer, and more as he continues to unravel the mysteries of this world in his own aesthetic sense and capability. Yousuf Bashir Qureshi or as we all have come to lovingly greet him as ‘YBQ’, is paving the way for youth to discover the beauty of everything around us. A well-known personality who has fame from his Hollywood stint designing clothes for the likes of Sheryl Crow, Angelina Jolie and Keanu Reeves to how he continues to bring a magical, distinctive and absolutely grounded touch to the Pakistani fashion intuition and standing. Here’s someone who endorses himself as being a man of faith, who is deeply rooted to his childhood treasures and is humble to the core, as he continues to amaze himself as much as others, creating art from beauty and to him beauty is everywhere.
Social Diary had the pleasure of meeting the man of the hour in Hasan Abdal- at his ancestral home which he holds dear to him but being the man that he is, is also working out the tangibles to make it into a space which is open to artists and guests who may be passing through. Here’s looking into an epic journey of self-discovery and finding magic with a frame of mind that suggests you control your destiny with your own thoughts and perspective.
SD: Is it true you went to the States to study to become a food scientist?
YBQ: At that time, there wasn’t any major counselling done. And I for one, didn’t actually have a very strong liking towards studying as well. But it was my father’s dream that I would take on engineering and then opt for a masters in business. After that, I’ll be working with a multinational company. As we now know, that is not how it played out at all. He asked me what I wanted to do, and upon hearing the word ‘philosophy’, the cliché chat on ‘scope’ took hold and so we met halfway and I ended up going for a degree in food sciences.
SD: And how did it transgress towards arts and fashion?
YBQ: That I would credit to the time I spent with my host parents at their place in Nebraska which also came with a stable. They used to own horses and go for Arabian horse shows. Soon enough, I also started looking after the horses, then I also learned how to ride them. It was when I began taking them to shows, did I take interest in how I’ll be looking while doing so. I used to dress up in my absolute, majestic sense, donning with pride my jamawaar, jodhpuris and really classy sherwanis. People would become curious and from thereon, I slowly began building my clientele which got a major boost when I moved to Los Angeles.
SD: Did you not once feel overwhelmed by the stares and the judgment?
YBQ: That was always part of the fiber. It was in my roots, so everything that I created came out of my ‘desi apparel’ love. It was pretty standard for me to wear it . Even when I was young, I was unconventional in my wardrobe. My father would question how I could dress up when I know people are staring at me. I would tell him it’s fine as I am also looking at myself and finding it incredibly amusing. Surely when I am dressing differently, I am inviting the stares but then that is also paving the way for some interesting conversations like how once in the UK in Immigration, the officer asked me in a stern, straight voice if I needed a translator. While my instinct was to narrate the complete Shakespeare to her, but then I said, “What will be the difference between us, and without a second thought I just said, “Well I might if you don’t understand English.” That completely broke the tension and she laughed. See this is how you change the point of view. There was definite tension and probable fear between us but how we handle the situation can completely turn the tables.
SD: You had made such a name for yourself in Hollywood and the States. Is it true your grandfather convinced you to come back to Pakistan?
YBQ: He didn’t need to convince me. Here was a man who was my best friend. I hold such fond memories of him from my childhood and how he has continuously supported me every step of the way. He said he was missing me and he need not have said anything more. I had a beautiful relationship with him and created a treasure of memories which I wouldn’t have if I just came back to die in my homeland. I am glad I came back when I did.
SD: Were you ever worried that you will be able to create the same platform here as you did in the States?
YBQ: I am a firm believer that rizq comes from the Almighty and it will when it is destined to. If I am enjoying my work, it’s guilt-free then its halal and this is not defined by the paradigms in which our society works. My designs are my reflection of the world and my beliefs. They will come as I embrace all the goodness I see around me.
SD: And how did poetry get into the mix? Is becoming a poet also arising from personal experiences?
YBQ: I think I inherited that from my mother’s side however I did use to write poetry when I was young. In fact I would write letters to my grandfather in poetic style. As it turns out, my mamo was also a poet so inheritance definitely played a role. However I do believe that when you look at something lovingly, its art in progress. So look at things lovingly and life will definitely take an artistic turn.
SD: Speaking of art, you created the first art commune of its kind in Pakistan- did you feel this was lacking and that we needed that kind of space?
YBQ: Again, I need to reflect on my childhood. I used to walk with my grandfather and sit in various gatherings around the neighborhood where we would get different snacks and beverages from various houses and people would talk about different things, be it people, politics, business, children, health, so I wanted to create the same thing now. Hence for me the commune is not just a place for artists but it is a place for everyone even for dogs, when it can act as a shelter. The space is what the need of the time is. It can become a qawwali space when in need of music as it can become an art residency. In simple terms, I want my commune to become a place where no one can judge one another. It makes you brave and that makes you open and creative.
SD: Final question- with HSY joining the entertainment industry, would we be seeing you in dramas anytime soon?
YBQ: Well, Sultana apa has been pushing me enough that I should venture into the drama industry. But as of now, I only get the role of the ‘goon’ offered. I would love to take on roles which allow me to depict a plethora of emotions. There had been some great stuff coming out before the pandemic but things sort of went topsy turvy. However I do want to bring back my ‘Mondays with YBQ’ in some way or the other. People are missing it and I am missing it. You know how people say sky’s the limit, I don’t really get that saying. Sky is actually just the beginning. And I have plenty still left to unravel, explore and express.