Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Halston, The Designer

The rise and fall of Halston is the story of a fashion icon whose talent took the fashion world by storm in the 1970’s and 1980’s, only to have it all end too soon. Halston was an innovator in his creative approach to style which collectively represented simplicity and purity in form. The factors contributing to the demise of this great designer were not only personal, but also professional, and left a legacy to be appreciated and respected for years to come.

Halston with Elizabeth Taylor in 1978



Halston, The Designer

Designer Halston was born Roy Halston Frowick on April 23, 1932 in Des Moines, Iowa. From his mother, Roy developed skill in sewing and started to create hats and outfits for his mother and sister.

Halston, Bianca Jagger, Jack Haley Jr., Liza Minnelli, and Michael Jackson at Studio 54 in 1978.

Roy’s family moved to Evansville, Illinois when he was eleven. After graduating from high school in 1950, Roy attended Indiana University for one semester. He enrolled in Chicago Art Institute when his family moved to Chicago in 1952. Roy worked as a window dresser while taking night courses. The 60’s and 70’s for Halston included disco clubbing, using popular drugs, and partying with celebrities, while still giving the world memorable designs. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1990 from AIDS-related lung cancer.


Halston Silk Chiffon Evening Gowns created in the 70's.

Roy Frowick’s big break came while he was living in Chicago during the 1950’s. The Chicago Daily News did a story which featured his fashionable hats. As a result, he opened his first major shop in 1957 called the Boulevard Salon. Roy began using his middle name—Halston—professionally.

Halston later moved to New York. Celebrity hair stylist Andre Basil introduced him to Lilly Dache, a French milliner who offered him a job in 1959. It took less than a year for Halston to become a co-designer at Dache and move on to become head milliner for the department store Bergdorf Goodman. He expanded into clothing design at Bergdorf Gorman in 1966 but left the store in 1967.


Jackie Kennedy and the internationally famous "pill box" hat.

Flight Attendant uniforms designed by Halston for Braniff Airlines SOURCE

While working at Bergdorf Goodman, Halston designed the famous pill box hat for Jacqueline Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy wore the hat at her husband’s presidential inauguration in January 1961, making Halston a household name.

The Ultrasuede shirt dress was his trademark, which he introduced in 1972 and was one of the most popular dresses at the time. The Halston look was one that emphasized simplicity and minimal concepts.

Halston also designed clothing for women who did not have figures like models, such as a loose tunic and pants for plus-size women, princess styles to de-emphasize her hips, and caftans.

The list of uniforms he designed included signature styles for Avis car rental employees, Braniff flight attendants, athletic teams, and Girl Scout troop leaders. He also designed moderately priced clothing for J.C. Penney, being one of the first designers to explore product licensing.

Halston Spring/Summer Collection in 1978 resembled various geometric style shapes.

Sewing patterns designed by Halston for McCall's in the 70's.



Halston with models (1977) showcasing his signature; minimalist style.

Halston with his muse, Liza Minelli

Simple construction defined Halston. The success of his ultrasuede shirt dress inspired Halston to use ultrasuede in other collections and in various goods.

Halston’s personal inspiration came from his beliefs about fashion. He felt that fashion was not made by designers, but by “fashionable people.” Being a master at detail, cut and finishing, he avoided zippers and buttons and developed geometric designs of draping on the body.

His work is compared to the minimalism concept in American art. He was inspired by painter Wassily Kandinsky and illustrated this through his prints with soft-edged zigzags, circles and rectangles. Halston was also inspired by Japanese designs when he visited Japan in 1980 and created a hand-printed silk georgette evening dress.


Halston Models for Spring 09 at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

Halston Spring 2009 Runway Show

After Halston’s death in 1990, there were various entrepreneurs that attempted to revive the Halston reputation. The label went through at least eight different owners and six designers, which included John Ridge, Randolph Duke, and Bradley Bayou. The fall of 2008 brought in Harvey Weinstein, Tamara Mellon of Jimmy Choo, and stylist Rachel Zoe. Marco Zanini, formerly of Versace, was given the head creative position. Zanini’s fall collection did not get good reviews and he was pressured to quit. There were rumors that he disagreed with the board about the direction of the Halston line. The company then decided to adopt a team approach, resulting in the spring 2008 collection being created by an unnamed design group.


Halston and Marisa Berenson

By the time Halston was thirty years old, he had won his first of five Coty Fashion Critics awards. He convinced Berdorf to sew his name in the labels of his hats---something that had never been done before for a designer. Newsweek called him the “best designer in America in 1972.” There is hope that the elegance and quality associated with the Halston name will emerge in both women’s wear and menswear. In the meantime, there is a report that Weinstein is working on a documentary about Halston’s life.