Halston, the namesake American fashion designer whose stripped-down, body-free luxury – kaftans, halter dresses and Ultrasuede acres – was a defining ’70s look, continues to fascinate.
Maybe that’s because her career, now over three decades in the rearview mirror, still feels so contemporary, both in terms of aesthetics – the riffs on her shirt dress are everywhere and when kaftans don’t. have they not been a thing? – and its business strategy – including the once new concepts of brand extensions and distribution lines. Or maybe it’s because the dramatic arc of his career, from anonymity to high-profile celebrity creator to scandal page, passes him off as a victim of Me’s cancellation culture. Decade.
Whatever the reason, Halston’s life appears to be eternally ripe for exploration in books (including Steven Gaines’ “Simply Halston”) and documentaries (most recently in 2010 and again in 2019). And now for a five-part miniseries.
Netflix’s ‘Halston’ has been a 20-year passion project for executive producer and director Dan Minahan, whose fascination with the New York scene inhabited by Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Halston and Victor Hugo comes from reading Interview magazine. and After Dark magazine as a gay kid in suburban Connecticut. The genesis of “Halston” would take shape years later, in her twenties, after reading Gaines’ Vanity Fair article which later became “Simply Halston”.
“I read it and I was so struck that I started reading other things about Halston and this world,” Minahan said. “The hook for me was this idea of someone coming to New York, making that coined name, building it into an empire and then being stripped of his name and company – he couldn’t be Halston anymore. And for me, it was very rich. It seemed like a truly archetypal American story.
Originally designed to be a feature film, it evolved into a limited series at the suggestion of Minahan’s production partner on the project, Christine Vachon of Killer Films. Turning it into a five-part series allowed the narrative to span multiple periods of Halston’s life, Minahan said.
“My idea was to structure it around all of Halston’s different collections or designs,” Minahan said. “So each episode is, like, the first collection, or it’s the creation of the perfume, or it’s the Battle of Versailles, or the JC Penney collection, to give us the opportunity to show off his creative process and his creative genius and then all of the whirlwind of drama around him.
One of the perks of this structure is that many of the designer’s defining creations – most painstakingly reconstructed by costume designer Jeriana San Juan, with a few borrowed from the archives of the current Halston brand owner or from private collections – get amply from screen time on the series arc. Here’s what you’ll see – and how it helped shape the brand and the life of the man portrayed in the Netflix miniseries by Ewan McGregor.
FIRST LADY’S PILLBOX HAT
Halston’s meteoric rise – like the show’s first episode – began in 1961 with a stroke of luck: Jacqueline Kennedy accessorized her inauguration day Oleg Cassini costume with a pillbox hat custom-designed by the milliner. by Bergdorf Goodman, Roy Halston Frowick. The hat not only gave the designer international exposure to manual labor, boosted business at Bergdorf, and became a sartorial signature for the incoming first lady, but it also spawned a copy boom. In an interview later in his career, Halston said that a bump in the hat was the result of Ms. Kennedy’s efforts to hold the hat on in windy weather, noting that “everyone who copied it put a bump in it. , which was so fun. “
Halston didn’t invent the lightweight polyester / polyurethane blend fabric with a suede feel, but he did help popularize it in the early 1970s. It was so connected to Halston that a 2010 documentary about it s ‘titled’ Ultrasuede ‘. Not bad for a happy accident; Halston first discovered the fabric at a cocktail party in Paris in 1971 when designer Issey Miyake, who wore an Ultrasuede shirt at the time, told him the material was ‘washable’ – which Halston interpreted mistakenly as “water repellent”. After an unsuccessful attempt to use it for raincoats (an effort referenced in the miniseries), he used Ultrasuede for a stylish take on the trench coat, which turned out to be a hit. He then used the fabric in a range of accessories, including shoes and handbags.
Partly reflecting the designer’s personal style, the shirtdress – a slightly feminized riff on the button-front dress shirt with a matching fabric belt – was introduced in the fall of 1972. The knee-length Ultrasuede garment known as the model name 704 lit the fashion world on fire and has become as synonymous with Halston as the fabric it was made of. Like the pillbox hat that launched it into the fashion design stratosphere, it would be widely copied by other designers.
The bottle itself may have been designed by Elsa Peretti (portrayed in the series by Rebecca Dayan, she started her own very successful career designing jewelry that appeared in her runway shows), but it marked the first expansion. major of the Halston brand. His emphasis on design – in conflict with brand owner Norton Simon Inc. – is recounted in the third episode of the series and serves as a harbinger of things to come. Minahan said there was a purpose behind focusing on the packaging of the perfume.
“The creation of the bottle in the third hour is very interesting,” he said. “Because I think it shows a story about the creative process, or (how) we use the creative process to tell the big story. So we see his genius, we see him doing things and why he is who he is and then all the crazies around him. You can see her (Elsa Peretti) find the shell on the beach and then see her become that bottle. And we really went to a glass foundry and worked with glassblowers to recreate the bottle.
Halston has had many celebrity patrons and champions over the course of his career – Babe Paley, Elizabeth Taylor, Bianca Jagger, and Angelica Huston among them – but none were as cohesive or as close as Liza Minnelli (played in the Netflix series by Krysta Rodriguez). Although Minnelli had worn the designer a lot for decades, her support for her friend was fully demonstrated during some of the most important moments of her life, including at the 1973 Oscars when she won the Actress Award. (for “Cabaret”) into a gold Halston ensemble and, as the series tells, the designer created a custom butter yellow pantsuit for her 1974 wedding to Jack Haley Jr.
Another ’70s look popularized by Halston was the halter dress. Closing at the waist and around the neck, the backless, often draped style, offered freedom of movement – which helped entrench it on dance floors of the disco era, most notably Studio 54. What the boxes nightlife didn’t make to epitomize the style in our collective memories, Liza Minnelli did – choosing a Halston red sequined halter mini dress for Bob Fosse’s concert film ‘Liza With a’ Z ”in 1972.
There’s plenty of floaty fabric to be had in all five episodes of Netflix’s miniseries, a nod to the puffy caftans that were part of the creator’s work. The first episode recreates the Eureka moment with a royal blue tie-dye kaftan worn by Elsa Peretti of Dayan during a fashion show.
The uniform Ewan McGregor wears throughout much of the series – black cashmere turtleneck, slacks, an assortment of mostly black (and sometimes white) athletic jackets and coats, with dark sunglasses firmly in place. – was not only part of his personal brand (even if it was really that). It was also an aesthetic that reflected the simple, stripped-down luxury of the clothes he designed. It was also, apparently, a wise business decision, according to the 1990 Los Angeles Times creator’s obituary, which included this quote: “It’s traditional in fashion for the salesperson to wear black so as not to compete with the customer or clothes. . “
HALSTON III AT JC PENNEY
If there was a single downward turn in the Halston brand’s fortunes in the public eye, it would be the deal with JC Penney. After the more accessible (read, much cheaper) Halston III line was taken over by the department store chain in 1983, high-end retailers abandoned its main line. Most notable of these was Bergdorf Goodman – his first retail champion.
MARTHA GRAHAM’S COSTUMES
The creator’s public life – and the miniseries – ends with the costumes he designed for the production of “Rite of Spring” by longtime friend and supporter Martha Graham. Although much less well known than his career looks, the draped suits carried many of the hallmarks of his style. The show debuted in February 1984. In the fall of that year, Halston would officially depart from the label that bore his name.
“In a story that speaks so much about him and his uniqueness, he ends up becoming an artist again,” Minahan said. “He starts by saying that he wants to be like Balenciaga or a fashion designer, he wants to be an artist, then he goes through all the possible machinations of creativity, up to the mass market and loses everything, then in the end becomes a artist again. So that was important to me, and I think it ends on the right note. He’s a tragic hero, but I think he has a dignity in the way we end the story.
Roy Halston Frowick would live another six years. He died in a San Francisco hospital in 1990 after an 18-month battle with AIDS. He was 57 years old.
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