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15 facts about Halston that you need to know

The American designer is the subject of an upcoming Netflix drama.
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Born Roy Halston Frowick, but known throughout his career as Halston, the fashion designer became a leading designer of the 70s, ushering in the favorite silhouettes and glitzy look of the disco era. His career was bolstered by his social circle which featured a number of famous faces who wore his easy and glamorous pieces, and he was among the first major designers to license his name, transforming the way designers do business. Halston's notoriety in New York's party scene added to the appeal of his label, until he began losing control in the 1980s. In 1990, the designer passed away in San Francisco at the age of 57 due to lung cancer and AIDS-related complications.

The style pioneer's rise (and fall) was featured in a 2019 documentary, Halston, and is now getting a dramatized rendition in an upcoming Ryan Murphy-written miniseries of the same name. Ahead of the show's premiere on May 14, learn all you need to know about Halston.

He was a milliner

Before clothes, he designed hats. Halston first found success as a milliner, opening a hat store on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile in the 1950s. When he moved to New York in 1958, Halston apprenticed under milliner Lilly Daché and then became the head milliner at Bergdorf Goodman.

He designed Jackie Kennedy's inauguration hat

First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore a pillbox hat designed by Halston to her husband John F. Kennedy’s presidential inauguration.

He launched ready-to-wear and couture

In 1966, Halston launched his full-fledged fashion label with women’s ready-to-wear and couture. He didn’t give hats up, though, as they were included in the line, along with furs, leather goods, shoes, jewelry, and other accessories.

He created genderless fashion

In the early stages of his brand, Halston’s clothes were for men and women, making him one of the first to design a unisex collection. Later, he created a separate menswear line.

He participated in the Battle of Versailles

In 1973, Halston was one of five American designers who partook in the Battle of Versailles fashion show. He was joined by Stephen Burrows, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein. The Americans faced off against French designers Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, and Marc Bohan to raise money for the restoration of the palace.

He loved to party

He frequented Studio 54 and was close with its other famous regulars like Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, and Andy Warhol. Halston’s partying influenced his approach to design, which would come to define the glamorous disco fever of the ‘70s.

He had a famous clientelle

Halston’s celebrity friends and clients also included Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Vreeland, Elizabeth Taylor, and more.

He made the halter dress chic

One of the designs that Halston popularized was the halter dress, which was a nightlife favorite for women. He was known for his sexy, flattering silhouettes that felt modern and used innovative materials like ultrasuede.

He won awards

Not only a commercially successful designer, Halston was also critically-acclaimed and won four Coty Awards throughout the 60s and 70s for his work in millinery and fashion. Halston was then inducted into the City Hall of Fame in 1974.

He had a longterm boyfriend

Halston had an on-again, off-again relationship with a Venezuelan artist named Victor Hugo (pictured with Andy Warhol). They met in 1972 and their relationship lasted 10 years.

He changed how fashion operates as a business

Halston licensed his name, but then struggled to reclaim his brand after its sale. When it sold in 1973 for an estimated $11 million, his company was renamed Halston Enterprises. By the mid-80s, it reached a value of $150 million.

He had a posse

The designer cultivated a group of favorite models that became known as the Halstonettes. The entourage included Pat Cleveland, Anjelica Huston, Beverly Johnson, and more, and was notable for its diversity as Halston was among the first designers to feature models of various races in his shows. They not only appeared in campaigns and on the runway for the designer, but also traveled with him and attended his parties.

He wanted everyone to be able to wear his clothes

In 1983, Halston made his clothing more accessible by signing a deal to create a more affordable line with JC Penney. While diffusion lines are common now, this was fairly novel at the time. This backfired on the designer, however, when his other partners at luxury stores like Bergdorf Goodman dropped his main collection because of his association with the mid-tier department store.

He was fired

The designer began to spiral in the 80s, and his excessive partying and drug use got in the way of his work. In 1984, Halston was fired from his company, and he subsequently (and unsuccessfully) tried to buy it back.

He switched to costume design

After being ousted from his brand, Halston designed costumes for his friend Liza Minnelli and also Martha Graham’s dance company.

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