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.


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.

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.

(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”.

(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