Roy Halston Frowick, also known as Halston was an iconic clothing designer of the 1970s. His long dresses or copies of his style were popular fashion wear in mid-1970s discotheques.
Roy Halston Frowick was born in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, on 23rd April 1932. He attended the University of Indiana and the Chicago Institute. He began his career as a milliner and when he moved to designing women's wear, Newsweek dubbed him "the premier fashion designer of all America."
In 1953, he opened a millinery salon in a Chicago hotel, where his clientele included film actresses. He trained briefly with Charles James, the great fashion designer. In 1958, he joined LILLY DACHE in New York, moving shortly after to the millinery salon of Bergdorf Goodman's New York department store. Halston designed hats for Jacqueline Kennedy including a beige felt pillbox that was widely copied. She wore many pillbox hats with the dresses which Oleg Cassini designed for her.
In 1966, Halston began designing ready-to-wear garments, leaving Bergdorf Goodman to open his own business. Halston Ltd., was founded in 1968 on Madison Avenue, New York. During the late 60's and early 70's Halston established a reputation as a designer of knitwear, sweaters and wide legged jersey trousers. He also made turtlenecks, long slinky halter-neck dresses, cashmere dresses for day and evening, sweater sets and boxy square jackets and coats. American socialites considered him the best evening wear designer. He also tie-dyed chiffon and used matte jersey in many of his collections. In 1972, he made a shirtwaister of Ultrasuede which inspired many imitations. Ultrasuede was considered to be a Halston trademark.
In the 60's, designer Stephen Sprouse worked at the house of Halston for 3 years.
In 1973, Norton Simon incorporated Halston's business for $ 12 million and named this new division of its conglomerate Halston Enterprises Inc. In 1978, he moved all his activities to the Olympic Towers Building, in Manhattan, New York.
His popularity in the 70's made him a social figure, most famously among the set that frequented New York's Disco named Studio 54.
Halston was famous for his draped jersey dresses and lean trouser suits. He was very much inspired by classical Greek and Roman draping.
In 1983, Halston signed with J.C. Penney, the large department store, for a cheaper line, which caused many of his higher class clientele to leave him.
Despite his achievements, his increasing drug use and failure to meet deadlines (he was reluctant to hire junior designers to design licensed products) undermined his success. In October of 1984 he was fired from his own company and lost the right to design and sell clothes under his own name. In 1990, he died, when only 58 years old, of lung cancer from complications of AIDS in San Francisco, California. According to Salon.com, Halston was "the first international fashion superstar—and possibly the best designer America has ever had."
As "the first designer to realize the potential of licensing himself," his influence went beyond style to reshape the business of fashion. Through his licensing agreement with JC Penney, his designs were accessible to women at a variety of income levels. Although this practice is not uncommon today, it was a controversial move at the time Halston, his perfume, was sold in a bottle designed by Elsa Peretti and was the second biggest selling perfume of all time.
New fragrances bearing the Halston name were introduced in 1994 and 1995, but the name and its legacy languished until the company was dismantled in 1996. French Fragrances Inc. bought the Halston scents; Tropic Tex Apparel bought the remainder of the Halston's products. To support the reintroduction of the Halston brand and image, Tropic Tex launched a major advertising campaign and brought Randolph Duke on board as creative director.
Over the next few years, the Halston name was licensed for beds and linens, scarves, belts, handbags, hosiery, sunglasses, jewelry, timepieces, leather apparel, sleepwear, and foundations. In the capable hands of Duke, Halston Signature womenswear regained much of its cachet—trunk shows at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue sold over $200,000-worth of couture in a few days in 1997. A menswear launch, however, was not as successful and the overexposure in licensing caught up with Tropic Tex. After experiencing financial difficulties, Tropic Tex agreed to sell Halston International to the Connecticut-based Catterton Group in April 1998.
Halston's new owners fired Duke and hired Kevan Hall, who had worked there briefly earlier in the year and abruptly left. Yet by 1999 Catterton had sold Halston's assets to Neema Clothing Ltd., which then hired Craig Natiello as design director. A new Halston Signature menswear line debuted in 2001 after a series of delays, and Natiello had settled in with his womenswear designs.
While the Halston brand spun out of control during the designer's lifetime, it was nothing compared to after his death. In the 21st century, however, the name Halston was again conjured up images of elegance and luxury in womenswear was emerging in menswear as well.
In the year 2000, the city of New York decided to honour American fashion designers by placing bronze plaques along 7th Avenue, the great street of fashion in New York. This was called the "FASHION WALK OF FAME'.
Various designers have looked after the house of Halston. Randolph Duke from 1997-1998, his assistant Kevan Hall 1998-1999, followed by Craig Natiello who left in November 2001.
Thai-born Piyawat joined Halston in April 2001. He was earlier with Anne Klein, Adrienne Vittadini and Vivienne Tam. When Craig Natiello left, he took over the design for Halston. He presented a successful Fall/Winter 2002 collection, followed by another for Spring/Summer 2003.
The latest designer at the house of Halston is Bradley Bayou. Bradley is a Texan, 6'4" tall, born in 1956 who is well-known for his extravagant couture gowns.
Bayou joined Halston in December 2002 and has created the collections for Fall 2003 and for Spring/Summer 2004 which was shown during New York Fashion Week in September 2003.
Bradley's show for Spring 2004 consisted of 20 pieces shown to a very select crowd belonging to New York's social register. They nodded and smiled as each model stopped so that they could examine the clothes. Bayou captured the essence of Halston - seductive and glamorous evening wear intermixed with casual and chic daywear. All the gowns were suitable for red-carpet appearances with exquisite detailing, and craftsmanship. Laser cutting done in Switzerland was the secret, Bradley said.
It is reported that a film is under production depicting the life of Halston, who will be played by Alec Baldwint. It will show the fashion icon and the life he led. Filming is due to start in Autumn 2004. Liza Minelli will probably play herself but there is no news about other stars who will play the celebrities who attended Studio 54 with him in the 1970's.
If Halston ascribed the social function to the wearer, he himself was the consummate creator of the garment in formal terms and his work corresponded to the minimalism in American arts. His geometry of design, employing bias as the three-dimensional element causing the geometry to drape splendidly on the body, was as conceptual as that of Vionnet. Some design problems were played out in paper origami, as he created twisted forms in white paper on a black lacquer tray. Discovering such form, Halston projected it onto the body with absolute integrity, cutting as little as possible, and allowing the simplicity of the two-dimensional design to be felt, even as it assumed form on the body. Likewise Halston's colors were as selective as Mondrian's, preferring ivory, black, and red, but knowing that fuchsia, electric blue, or deep burgundy could provide accent and emphasis. Of textiles, he worked with cashmere, silk and rayon jerseys, double-faced wools, and Ultrasuede. Halston's eveningwear was acclaimed for its glittery, gossamer shimmer, but often unacknowledged for the same principles of simplicity. Working on the bias, Halston caressed the body with spiralling scarfs of form. His one-piece, held-at-the-shoulder "orange-peel" dress was the product of a deft hand, like that of the fruit peeler. His evening jackets were often nothing more than rings of material twisted into cocoon fantasies.
Debra Messing, Oprah Winfrey, Jenna Elfmann, Salma Hayek, Gloria Swanson, Deborah Kerr, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger, Anjelica Huston, Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley, Elizabeth Taylor