Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Roy Halston - Slinky in Silk

Here is my last designer profile meant for Colette Patterns.

Roy Halston (1932 - 1990) American

Halston with his Halstonettes.
Born Roy Halston Frowick in Iowa, the designer later known as Halston wanted to be in fashion and sewed as a child. Before moving to New York, there was Chicago where he took night classes studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. In New York he started in the business at the bottom, working as a window dresser and then milliner for Bergdorf Goodman in New York. His high point there was when in 1961 he supplied the first "pillbox" hat worn by the new First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
Halston of Bergdorf Goodman hats.

In 1966, with the help and financial backing of his employer Bergdorf Goodman, he went into business, even establishing his own ready-to-wear boutique within the store. Unfortunately, the venture only lasted eighteen months before Halston resigned to establish his own company, Halston Limited in 1968.

Wool suit, Halston of Bergdorf Goodman, 1965.
At a time in America when it was not fashionable to appear rich, his clothes portrayed an understated wealth, a sort of all-American look combined with a luxe "jet-set" vibe. He was considered America's answer to Yves Saint Laurent, as he brought sophistication to sportswear.

Cashmere ensemble, 1979.
In 1970, he developed Halston International for his ready-to-wear clients. His style was of a minimalist nature. His clothes were usually in only one color, rarely in prints and devoid of embellishments. If a patterned or sequined fabric was used, as he did for Liza Minnelli's stage costumes, then the actual outfit design would be spare and use simple lines. Sometimes the only adornment would be the graphic jewelry designs of collaborating artist Elsa Peretti.

Silk evening dress, 1978.
His signature items were slinky halter-neck dresses and silk jersey jumpsuits in solid jewel-tone colors. Many of his clothes fastened without zippers, slipping over the head for effortless wear. His one-shouldered dresses constantly flirted with falling off the shoulders and his unstructured strapless dresses were held up by elastic, drawstrings, and gravity. These light and richly colored dresses were ideal for dancing and being seen in nightclubs.

Lavender Ultrasuede shirtdress, 1970s.
More traditional pieces such as his form-fitting turtle necks, trench coats, jackets and shirtdresses of Ultrasuede were a large part of his collections. He became so well known for his use of the synthetic fabric Ultrasuede that in 2010 a fashion documentary about the designer was released titled Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Silk dress, 1978.
Halston was considered the first American designer of the Media Era and the first true celebrity designer. He appeared as himself on television and was seen out socially with customers Liza Minnelli, Angelica Huston, and Bianca Jagger at nightclubs, especially the famed Studio 54.

Nylon and plastic dress, 1970.
By 1975, he was involved in the design of home linens, menswear, fragrance, shoes, accessories, cosmetics and luggage. In 1983, he was contracted to produce an exclusive Halston collection for American discount department store, J.C. Penney. Unfortunately, among fashion insiders this was considered a huge mistake and a huge backlash developed that resulted in many clients and retail outlets dropping his business.

Silk jersey gown, 1972.
Halston's late night lifestyle and his increasing addiction to cocaine began to negatively affect his life and business. Around this time, the company was acquired by new owners who fired Halston for unreliability and stripped the designer of the rights to his name. In less than ten years, he was dead from an AIDS-related cancer.

Vogue 6606.
Home Sewing Connection: Halston designed patterns for McCall's and Vogue. Earlier Vogue patterns were for his Halston of Bergdorf Goodman hat designs and the company also benefited from his 1970-80s clothing designs.

Silk caftan, 1975.
His style, innovations, and lasting influence on fashion:
  • He won the Coty American Fashion Critics award in 1962, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974 and was placed on the Fashion Walk of Fame in New York in 2000.
  • He appeared as himself on a 1980 fashion-themed episode of The Love Boat.
  • Designers who have stated that they were influenced by his work are Calvin Klein and Tom Ford, especially in his 1990s designs for Gucci.
  • Like many of the designers in this series, he also designed airline staff uniforms, in his case for groovy Braniff Airlines.  
Images: Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Sources: Fashion: The Century of the Designer, 1900-1999 (1999) Charlotte Seeling; The World’s Most Influential Fashion Designers (2010) Noel Palomo-Lovinski; Fashion (2003) Christopher Breward; Halston: The Bergdorf Years Patrica Myers, Bergdorf Goodman blog .


The Slapdash Sewist said...

Very interesting! Halston's casual-chic easy-wearing vibe is still influencing fashion today, especially with the maxi dresses and jump suits we're seeing right now. Thank you for this little history on him!


Wauwww very nice!! we like your posttt

hajar & Mounia

Online Clothing said...

There's no doubt about how totally influential Halston was on the world of fashion. I think it's really cool how many of the items he created back in the 60's would still be great to wear out today and not be dated. His is truly a timeless fashion