Superstar Designer’s Legacy Enduring Fashion Themes, Classic Fragrances
MIAMI LAKES, FL – Only the Age of Aquarius could have produced a designer of such mythic proportions as Halston. Or could it be that Roy Halston Frowick, from Des Moines, Iowa, engineered the entire decade of the ’70s for his own amusement – and his own legacy?
As a force within the fashion industry, Halston’s aura almost eclipsed the reputation of his label. He was the first, true American superstar designer, bringing casual, but luxurious fashion to an enthusiastic audience. At the same time, he was uncanny about cultivating the first designer-as-celebrity reputation, counting among his friends Liza Minnelli, Cher, Lauren Bacall, Andy Warhol and other Studio 54 revelers.
Today, the tremors from the man and his legend are still impacting the fashion world. Jersey, cashmere, and even Ultrasuede are recurring themes on contemporary runways.
From the Top: The ’50s & ’60s
The Halston legend began, appropriately enough, at the top – with hats. After attending the Art Institute of Chicago, Halston designed and sold millinery from inside a Chicago beauty parlor. His best clients were elite dignitaries and celebrities, among them Gloria Swanson and Kim Novak. Foreshadowing, perhaps? It was here that Halston was “discovered” by Lilly Daché who brought him to New York in 1957.
A year later, Halston began a 10-year relationship with Bergdorf Goodman. At first, he designed custom millinery for Bergdorf’s, including such innovations as the scarf hat and Jackie O’s inseparable pillbox. His creations were also quite fanciful, incorporating organdy hair-dryer bonnets, fringed lampshades and mirrored hoods into his designs. During his tenure at Bergdorf’s, Halston won the first of five Coty Awards, this one for innovation in millinery. Then, in 1966, Bergdorf’s put him in charge of his own in-store boutique, an opportunity that represented his first venture into apparel design.
Halston’s clothes were a hit.
So much so, that in 1968, Halston bid farewell to Bergdorf’s and opened Halston Limited, selling apparel and accessories to stores throughout the country, including his own boutique inside Bloomingdale’s. But unlike his fanciful headgear, the apparel designs under Halston’s own label represented a radical, 180-degree turn in mood.
Less is More: The ’70s
Halston’s apparel championed the classic simplicity of soft, unconstructed, pared-down design that would become the hallmark of his career. His clothes were sophisticated, casual and easy to wear. He revolutionized cashmere sweaters by taking them to the floor, brought back turtlenecks, evolved halter-tops into eveningwear and paired short shorts or slim pants with tunics, wrap jackets, coats and capes. In 1974, Halston was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame, the most prestigious honor in the American fashion industry.
Having risen to the upper echelon of apparel, Halston turned his creative energies toward the fashion of fragrance. In 1975, Halston made headlines with the launch of his signature fragrance, Halston for women. A year later, Halston was back in the news for the simultaneous launch of twin men’s fragrances, Z-14 and 1-12. In each instance, Halston turned to Elsa Peretti, a respected jewelry designer and former Halston model, to develop the packaging designs. Halston was doubly rewarded for his efforts when the Fragrances Foundation honored both Halston and Z-14 with its “Most Successful Launch of the Year” distinction.
To Dress America: The ’80s
The turn of the decade also mirrored a turn in Halston’s attention. From his custom-made background, Halston began expressing a desire to “dress America.” This desire took shape when Halston signed a licensing agreement with JCPenney to create a stylish, yet moderately priced, line of apparel under the Halston III label.
In 1991, a year after his death, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honored Halston with a special tribute and retrospective. But it wasn’t until last year that perhaps the most fitting acknowledgment occurred when a new line of apparel bearing the designer’s name debuted.
Can a rebirth of the Age of Aquarius be far behind?
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.
Airline uniform designs
Halston was very influential in airline uniform designs. His designs were featured on the now-defunct carrier Braniff. His designs were more muted than the airline’s past uniform designs by Emilio Pucci. He made interchangeable separates in shades of bone, tan, taupe, and brown. He also designed the seat covers that were added on the aircraft and known as the “Ultra look”.