This is my second official Icons post and its a personal favourite of mine.
If you know your vintage, you’ll hear the word ‘Halston’ and think Studio 54 – glamorous, floor length frocks, Bianca Jagger astride a white horse (literally, not metaphorically) and timeless, floaty elegance meets dresses to dance in. I would pretty much kill for a one shoulder, floor length Halston dress, or one of his fully sequinned vintage creations.
Roy Halston Frowick, known to most by his middle name, Halston, was an iconic designer of the 1970s. His long dresses are synonymous with that era, and his shimmering, floatatious layers and one-shouldered creations were the discotheque darlings of the time.
Born in Iowa in 1932, Halston developed an interest in sewing after watching his mother at work, and soon began creating hats and altering clothes for her and his sister. A story in the Chicago Daily News about Halston’s fashionable hats sparked interest in his designs, and in 1957 he opened his first shop, the Boulevard Salon, adopting Halston as his professional alias.
Relocation to New York and time spent working with milliner, Lilly Dache, led to a position at prestigious department store Bergdorf Goodman in their customer milliner salon. It was here that he designed the iconic pillbox hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy to her husband’s 1962 presidential inauguration. Soon his designs were the favourite of celebrities from Bianca Jagger, to Liza Minnelli, Anjelica Huston, Lauren Bacall and Elizabeth Taylor, cementing Halston’s style as the one of choice for the international jet set of the time. A regular at Studio 54, old photos show Halston lounging with Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli, all of the women draped in sensual Halston creations.
This image of him and Anjelica Huston is my favourite –I’m a huge fan of her eccentric beauty and dry wit, and she was a serious Betty, in the words of Cher Horowitz. Isn’t her dress similar to the racy-red Versace one January Jones wore to the Golden Globes? I digress…
Halston was the first designer ever to recognise the financial potential that lay with licensing himself. Through JC Penney his designs were made accessible to women that previously couldn’t have dreamed of flaunting a Halston. A controversial move at the time, it lead to a period of both extreme productivity and extreme stress. An utter perfectionist, Halston couldn’t bear to have junior designers carry out the numerous collections in his name – eight JC Penney collections a year plus accessories, and his own Made to Order, Ready to Wear and Haute Couture lines.
In October 1984, Halston was asked to leave the Olympic Towers, headquarters of Halston Enterprises. A rapid succession of hostile corporate take overs in the subsequent four years prevented Halston from designing or selling clothes under his own name, the ultimate slight against a man who had built his empire around his own name. He continued to design clothing for his family and friends, including costumes for his dear friends Liza Minelli and Martha Graham and her Martha Graham Dance Company, until his death from lung cancer in 1990.
Halston vintage remains coveted today and is favoured by celebrities like Mary-Kate Olsen, Rachel Zoe, Chloe Sevigny and Sarah Jessica Parker. SJP is a huge Halston fan, and she wore a number of Halston dresses in the Sex and the City movies.
Halston’s glamorous 70’s-inspired gowns live on in the Halston of today, under the stewardship of designer Marios Schwab.