The life story of designer Roy Halston Frowick is the inspiration for a new Netflix mini-series starring Ewan McGregor beginning on May 14. Expect to salivate over the fashion. These preview ‘Meet the Entourage’ polaroids give a flavour of his desk-to-disco aesthetic and hedonistic lifestyle …
“You are only as good as the people you dress,” declared Roy Halston Frowick and he owed his fame to the pillbox hat he created for Jacqueline Kennedy to wear to her husband’s presidential inauguration in 1961.
Originally from Iowa, Halston made the transition from millinery to fashion (designing both couture and ready-to-wear) and accessories. He favoured fluid, silk jersey dresses and svelte clothes made from innovative fabrics such as ultrasuede. For him, being chic was all about luxurious fabrics, dressing the body like a second skin (Halston adored ballet and was always aware of human anatomy).
Halston was as much a socialite as a designer – often throwing parties at his Upper East Side townhouse for friends such as Andy Warhol and Truman Capote. His designs were perfect for New York’s Studio 54 – the famous nightclub owned by Steve Rubell, which was not just about music and dancing, but also about a desire to see and be seen. It was Halston who famously dressed Bianca Jagger in white and gold as she was led through the club on a white horse. The guest list at Studio 54 was strict but democratic and included contemporary icons, beautiful people and designers. An elite clique called the “gliterrati” kept the club in the newspaper headlines. Halston, together with his friend Liza Minelli, were the elected king and queen of the club.
Halston’s fashionable friends became known as the “Halstonettes” (a term coined by Andre Leon Talley). They included Anjelica Huston, Lauren Bacall, Elsa Peretti, Elizabeth Taylor and Margaux Hemingway among others. He realised that “Fashion starts with fashionable people … no designer has ever made fashion alone. People make fashion.”
His most iconic designs were six-ply turtle neck sweaters, halterneck gowns, jumpsuits and ultrasuede shirtwaist dresses; he was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame in 1974. For himself, Halston (which he pronounced Hall-ston) adopted the uniform of slicked-back hair, black polo neck and white suit with a matching cigarette in white cigarette holder.
In 1973, Halston and his business partners, Ben Shaw, Guido DeNatale and Jerry Uchin, sold the business to Norton Simon, Inc., for an estimated price of $12 million. The new company was called Halston Enterprises. Ten years later, it was estimated that the company’s volume reached $150 million. After the sale, Halston spent the rest of his life trying to buy back his brand, but ultimately was unsuccessful. He died of lung cancer with complications of the AIDS virus in 1990.
Halston’s influence has continued to grow. Tom Ford, when designer at Gucci, acknowledged his Studio 54 look as crucial to fashion in the 1990s. Other designers who have been influenced by Halston include Isaac Mizrahi, Diane Von Furstenberg, Ralph Rucci and latterly Michael Halpern. Many have tried to revive the brand – including Sarah Jessica Parker who wore Halston Heritage in the Sex and the City film of 2009.
The designer was the subject of a documentary by Frédéric Tcheng in 2019, why not watch it ahead of the new Netflix series? The latter stars Ewan McGregor as Halston, Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli, Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti, Bill Pullman as David Mahoney, Gian Franco Rodriguez as Victor Hugo, David Pittu as Joe Eula, Sullivan Jones as Ed Austin, Rory Culkin as Joel Schumacher, Kelly Bishop as Eleanor Lambert and Vera Farmiga as Adele. On Netflix from May 14.
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