Gilbert Yeung on collaborating with HERVET to transform Cassio

Photo: Chester Ong

From the same team that brought you Hong Kong’s most iconic nightclubs Dragon-i and Tazmania Ballroom comes another Lan Kwai Fong occupant; only this time, it’s a re-imagined casual Spanish tapas bar. Throughout his career, Gilbert Yeung has seen massive success in his ventures and contributions to Hong Kong’s nightlife industry thanks to his unwavering commitment to creating authentic atmospheres without compromising on stylish interior design. 

Gilbert spoke candidly about the experience of collaborating with HERVET in refurbishing the venue, the challenges his team had to overcome, and what we ought to expect from the eclectic new and improved Cassio. 

Why did you decide to revamp Cassio?

Things have evolved since we opened in 2016, so I wanted to transform the space to provide an experience that is more suitable to today’s customer needs. We wanted to create a more casual atmosphere for the inside rather than a full-on dinner venue. Somewhere people could start the evening with after-work drinks and tapas and stay late at night to enjoy the music if they wished. 

Why did you decide to work with HERVET Manufacturier for Cassio’s new interiors?

I’ve always been a fan of Daft Punk and I think they were instrumental in the history of music. Cédric was their creative director and played a significant role in defining their visual identity – he designed their album covers and the stage set design for their 2014 performance at the Grammys. I love his work and HERVET’s retro-futuristic style and thought it would suit my vision for Cassio.

Photo: Chester Ong

What do you think of Cassio’s new interiors? What was your first reaction upon stepping foot into the refurbished Cassio?

My first reaction when I stepped into the refurbished Cassio was that we now have a venue that is much more intimate and warm – very congenial for week-night interaction – a casual tapas venue or a place just to hang out over drinks.  Our terrace was always hugely popular and we felt it was important to align the inside to be more fluid with the terrace. We feel the refurbishment connects the inside with the outdoor area much better.

We love the design  – it reflects many of the interests we (Cedric and Nicolas Hervet and I) grew up with. We found that we share the same taste and vision, and the result was a joint design with which we are very happy and excited about!

 What is your favourite part of the new layout? Do any pieces of furniture or decor stand out to you?

I like the hidden bar, you never know who you will meet in there.

The DJ booth is of course my favorite piece – it was a bespoke design by HERVET to be the linking point between the retro and sci-fi elements of their work and I loved their idea of making it like a spaceship landing on the dance floor!  The DJ now has pride of place at Cassio which is appropriate given the important role that music plays in our DNA.

Photo: Chester Ong

The new space is inspired by The Great Gatsby and has a 1970s sci-fi vibe to it — would you say that this eclectic mix of futurism and the roaring twenties is a reflection of your personal taste?

I must confess I would not have thought of that approach, but it felt just right when Cedric and Nico proposed this direction to us.

You played a role in furnishing the new interior. Can you tell us more about the art you curated for the interiors of Cassio that come from your own collection? Which pieces did you select and why did you choose them?

Naijel Graph Artworks –  I was shopping in Tokyo one day and stopped at Son of the Cheese where I saw some really cool artwork by Naijel Graph. I found him and bought some of his pieces and he actually later designed Cassio’s logo for me. I think his style of art reflects the cheekiness of Cassio and taps into music that is close to our DNA.

A three-screen video artwork by Marco Brambilla – I first noticed Brambilla’s work in New York’s Standard Hotel eight years ago when I was in the lift going up to the Boom Boom Room. I love the video work, so I contacted Brambilla for a potential collaboration at that time. Marco wanted to do an exhibition of his work but I felt dragon-i wasn’t the right space for that. However, when Marco came to Art Basel Hong Kong and after I met him in person, Marco created this custom-made three-screen video for Cassio.

See also: Daft Punk announces breakup on YouTube with “Epilogue” video

How was it working together with HERVET?

We clicked from the moment we were introduced and decided on the idea of collaboration right away.   Being a huge fan of Daft Punk, it was naturally exciting to be working with Cedric, but the HERVET team also gained my respect with their fine craftsmanship and their passion for keeping their family heritage alive through their work, having come from four generations of artisan cabinet makers in France.

Photo: Chester Ong

Did you face any challenges while revamping Cassio? How did you overcome it?

Cedric and Nico had to do the design without ever having set foot in Cassio because of the pandemic. In the end, we got around this through a lot of video calls, and the designs by Cedric and Nico were executed by Zhangellini & Holt and produced by another company, HKP International, in Hong Kong.

As the owner of Cassio, Dragon-i, and Tazmania Ballroom, from your experience, what is key to creating a successful nightlife venue in Hong Kong? Has it changed now under the pandemic?

The key to success at our venues has always been to have a friendly vibe, with great music.  Making our guests and friends feel very welcome has always been our DNA.

Things have of course changed under the pandemic. Our operations have changed a lot since we were only allowed limited opening times in 2020 and in 2021 we were closed even more days. We don’t know yet what is going to be the new normal but for sure there will be a new lifestyle and new way for people to enjoy themselves.

See also: DJ Arthur Bray on the underground club scene in Hong Kong

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