Halston was the US’s first haute couturier to be taken seriously. From milliner to revered iconic fashion designer in a very short this flamboyant and fun-loving man firmly put his sartorial stamp on everything in the Studio 54 era so that his ‘star’ on Fashion’s Walk of Fame in NY rightly proclaims ‘The 70’s Belonged to Halston’.
Sadly this ill-conceived movie by a narcissistic spoilt socialite Whitney Smith, does not do the great man justice. Smith totally unversed in fashion manages to scores some interviews with industry luminaries such as Andre Leon Tally, Diane von Furstenberg and Stephen Burrows but allows his own personal agenda to waste these great opportunities. With an ego that manages to make Liza Minnelli seem positively sane, he even fails to listen when she pleads with him to go do some research into her best friend’s life and work.
Nevertheless Halston’s legacy still shines through with some wonderful archival footage that totally shocked me when it revealed exactly how truly wonderful the clothes he created were. In his very public private life Halston was a dedicated party goer and showman that ran with a very fast crowd, but the innovative and elegant fashion that he produced on the Runway was stunningly chic and totally wearable. The fact that he was dressing a young Jacqueline Kennedy as First Lady at the same time as he clothed society’s dowagers and also all the party girls at Studio 54 at the same time speaks volumes of his talent.
It seemed appropriate that he be chosen to be the first high-end designer to make a mass market collection for J C Penney’s which sadly failed but it did pave the way for all the designers of today who cannot wait to do work for the likes of Target and H + M.
The fact that he loved life to the fullest, having the most strikingly beautiful contemporary house designed and built in Manhattan, and was spending some $100000 a year on orchids alone added another dimension. His boyfriend Victor Hugo was from all accounts, the craziest of his circle, and when Whitney Smith actually allowed his interviewees to speak, it was great hearing of all their exploits. Makes life now seem so tame.
The story ended in tears with greedy corporations who bought and sold Halston’s business several times and thus denying the man himself the right to use the very talents that they had paid big bucks for. And then Halston became one of the first casualties of the AIDS epidemic in 1990.
This film will have to do until a real filmmaker pays proper homage to the man who really did make the 1970’s his very own.
P.S. The Company that bears his name is headed up some rather over-made-up woman (whose name escapes me) who was interviewed in her home (Versailles meets Housewives of New Jersey) and yet has dumped Halston’s archives to a Bible College in Tennessee who keep then in boxes in a storeroom! Urgh!!!!