Halston (born Roy Halston Frowick) had a prime influence on American fashion between the 1970s and 1980s. The life of the enigmatic designer is the subject of Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix creation, Halston. The limited series traces the designer’s journey from building a worldwide fashion empire running parallel with luxury to considering business deals. The American fashion designer gave birth to Disco Dressing, Thanks to his close affiliation with famous faces like Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, and Bianca Jagger, who wore his glitzy, disco-inspired silhouettes.
From the time when everything was spinning out of his control to the legacy he left behind, here’s everything you need to know about the iconic fashion designer Halston.
1. He Kickstarted His Career By Making Hats
While studying fashion illustration at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1952, Halston began designing hats in his spare time. In 1958, at the age of 26, he moved to New York to design hats for renowned American milliner Lilly Daché. The designer also started working for the prestigious retailer Bergdorf Goodman in 1959. He designed the famous pillbox hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy at the presidential inauguration of her husband, John F. Kennedy.
2. Halston Was Known For His Minimalism
The designer carved a name for himself in the fashion scene by helming designs that were clean, minimal and functional. His silhouettes rose to fame majorly between the ’70s and ’80s. He also pioneered cashmere or Ultrasuede, which was a new phenomenon in the mid-1970s.
3. He Participated In The Battle Of Versailles Fashion Show
A historic fashion show held on November 28, 1973, to raise money to restore the Palace of Versailles, this event witnessed French designers pitted against American designers. Amidst legendary French names like Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Marc Bohan to American cult favourites like Halston, Stephen Burrows, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass and Anne Klein, Halston created magic with his silhouettes.
4. The Designer Was An Avid Party Lover
With his eminent social circle, Halston was a regular at Studio 54, a former disco nightclub in New York, which is now a Broadway Theatre. His love for partying eventually influenced his designs which gave birth to Disco Fever in the form of sequined, shimmery and glitzy silhouettes in the 1970s.
5. Halston Gave The Halter Dress A Chic Upgrade
A nightlife favourite amongst American women, Halston popularised and glamorised the iconic halter dress. The designer used sophisticated materials like Ultrasuede to lend the dress a more flattering silhouette and a refined, classy appeal.
6. He Had A Long-Term Relationship With An Artist
Halston met a Venezuelan artist named Victor Hugo in 1972, who designed his window displays for his Madison Avenue store. The two shared a turbulent relationship that lasted for about 10 years. Victor went on to later become Andy Warhol’s assistants at The Factory.
7. Halston Cultivated A Group Of His Favourite Models
Halston was not only notable for his diversity by including models of every race in his shows, but his models even travelled with him and attended his parties. From the likes of Pat Cleveland to Beverly Johnson, Halston’s group of models were known as the Halstonettes.
8. He Sold His Company And Later Tried To Buy It Back
He began to spiral in the 1980s due to his excessive usage of alcohol and drugs, which eventually got in the way of his work. He ended up selling his name to Norton Simon Inc. for an estimated price of $11 million. The company was renamed Halston Enterprises, and the designer stayed back as its Creative Director.
9. The Designer Had An Untimely Death
Two years after testing positive for AIDS-related lung cancer (Kaposi’s sarcoma involving the lungs), the designer passed away in San Francisco in March 1990.
Photographs: Instagram, Getty Images