When I think of Halston, I think of Studio 54, caped gowns and the disco scene of 1970s New York.
Netflix – who saved us all during lockdown – have just released the five-part series, HALSTON, which fashionistas will thoroughly enjoy this month, whilst UK rainstorms rage outside. Ewan McGregor stars as the pioneering designer and brilliantly portrays his dizzying rise and tragic fall.
Roy Halston Frowick , initially a milliner, opened his first hat shop in Bergdorf Goodman’s in 1961. The series follows Halston through his professional experiences, including the release of his breakthrough Ultrasuede shirtdress, as seen on Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City, and the expansion of his bespoke business into a multi-million-dollar retail empire.
The biopic has got the internet talking, after it starting trending on Netflix last Friday. The designer’s success redefined American fashion, but his career was hit hard when his label was dropped by luxury stores.
Behind Halston’s achievements was his hard-partying lifestyle at New York’s infamous Studio 54, where a combination of drugs, sex, and false friends left him increasingly volatile. Halston’s troubled personal life would contribute to his eventual professional downfall, leading him to a much-maligned collaboration with JCPenney, and to a fatal business deal in which he sold off his most valuable asset – his name. Halston reached vast heights in his career, but was eventually shattered when he lost rights to his own label.
Famously known as Halston, the fashion designer was born as Roy Halston Frowick on April 23, 1932. As the creator of elegant, yet sexy dresses with plunging neck lines that oozed femininity, it’s no surprise that he had a selection of A-List clientele. His portfolio includes Elizabeth Taylor , Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli. Plus, most recently, Kate Moss.
Prior to womenswear, he entered the industry through his hat business in 1953. Halston shot to international fame when First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore his pillbox hat at her husband John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration. The accessory went viral, leaving the world curious which designer was behind the innovative masterpiece.
By the end of the 1970s, his label had expanded into menswear, luggage, handbags, lingerie and fragrance.
His career was unexpectedly rocked in 1983, when he landed that six-year deal with mid-scale department store JCPenney, aspiring to expand his brand to a larger audience. However, Halston did not get the result he anticipated, after his name was consequently labelled as ‘cheap’ for dealing with non-luxury retailers. The label was dropped from Bergdorf Goodman.
Throughout the 80s, his brand was acquired three times which concluded with Halston losing control and being banned from designing.
Nevertheless, from 1968 to 1973, his line earned an estimated $30 million. He earned another $16 million when he sold his line to Norton Simon, Inc. in 1973. But he didn’t own his name anymore and that was his biggest loss and regret.
Aged 57, the iconic designer passed away in March 1990 due to AIDS-related complications. At this time, he was worth a whopping $100 million. Unfortunately, due to his cocaine and alcohol addiction during his fall from grace, he pushed everyone away from him, dying alone in San Fransisco.
Though he has been gone for over 30 years, his legacy continues to live on as one of the most influential American designers in fashion history.
Halston on Netflix now.