Who is Halston? Here’s what you need to know ahead of a new documentary about the iconic US designer

7th Jun 19 | Beauty

He was behind Jackie Kennedy’s iconic pillbox hat, as well as many of the most glittery outfits of Seventies stars like Liza Minnelli.

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Few places evoke the highs of fashion and glamour than Studio 54, the 1970s New York nightclub frequented by Andy Warhol and Elizabeth Taylor. It’s synonymous with excess and opulence – it was, after all, where Bianca Jagger famously rode a white horse.

There was a particular fashion designer who was closely associated with the style of Studio 54, and that was Roy Halston Frowick – most commonly known as Halston. Now, there’s a new documentary dedicated to his life.

Called Halston, it’s the work of Frédéric Tcheng, of documentaries Dior and I, and Valentino: The Last Emperor.

Born in Iowa in the early 1930s, Halston first rose to prominence as a milliner in the 1950s, and throughout his career was known for his experimentation with hats. In fact, what really solidified Halston’s reputation as a fashion behemoth was designing the pillbox hat Jacqueline Kennedy wore to her husband’s 1961 inauguration. It was a bold design, and one that soon became a defining part of the former First Lady’s style.

Apparently, Kennedy took to Halston because he had a big head like her, and could understand her struggles with finding a hat that suited.

John.F.Kennedy
A pillbox hat soon became a distinctive part of Jackie Kennedy’s look (PA)

Halston expanded into designing womenswear and opened his own salon in New York in 1968; it was here he dressed everyone from Catherine Deneuve and Elizabeth Taylor to Bianca Jagger and Raquel Welch. He was loved for his uber-glamorous designs using fabrics like velvet and suede, and his friend Liza Minnelli appears in the documentary saying: “His clothes danced with you.”

According to Newsweek, Halston’s favourite mantra was: “You’re only as good as the people you dress” – and the designer evidently didn’t slouch in that area.

Halston
(Dogwoof Films/PA)

The documentary also follows the tougher times of Halston’s career – he fell foul of the fashion world when he announced a partnership with department store JCPenney, which wasn’t seen as nearly highbrow enough. At the time, he was dismissed by many for “selling out”.

Halston
(Dogwoof Films/PA)

Halston died of AIDs complications in March 1990 at the age of 57. In 2001, fashion writer Tim Blanks wrote about the designer for The Telegraph. Michael Kors told Blanks: “Halston in the US and Saint Laurent in Europe were the first people who said you can be super-chic and sexy at the same time. Before that it was one or the other.”

Halston is in selected UK and Ireland cinemas and iTunes from Friday, June 7.

© Press Association 2019

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