A passion for fashion
He was born Roy Halston Frowick, but the world knew him simply as Halston, arguably the most famous fashion designer of his time, and he is the subject of Frederic Tcheng’s appropriately stylish documentary feature that chronicles his colorful life and career.
This is not the first documentary about the self-proclaimed “designer personality,” as he was previously the subject of the 2010 documentary Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston, an ideal companion piece to this film. Indeed, had the best parts of both films been combined, it would have might a better overall biography. Neither film can quite capture the elusive personality that was Halston, although not for lack of trying.
With his clipped speech and vaguely haughty manner, who would have guessed that Halston hailed from Des Moines? Then again, he was always fairly secretive about his past, as if he wanted to create the impression that he simply emerged, fully-formed, as Halston. In a sense, he did. He fashioned his own persona, so to speak, and as a result, become renowned worldwide.
With a healthy love/hate relationship with high society and an unquenchable thirst for courting controversy – all the better to draw attention to himself and his work – he was a formidable personality, driven by ambition and unmistakable talent.
Yet, as is so often the case, the higher Halston rose, the bigger the risk in falling – and fall he did, almost as spectacularly as he’d risen. In terms of art and commerce, he was the master of the former but never could master the latter, spending money with gleeful abandon. A Byzantine business arrangement with Norton Simon in 1973 was the first of several decisions that would have severe repercussions. When Halston’s empire finally did collapse, he no longer even owned the trademark of his own name.
By then, however, he had more pressing matters to attend to. A devotee – and casualty – of the drug-and sex-laden Studio 54 milieu, his ultimate footnote would be as a high-profile casualty of the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. He’d left his mark on the world of fashion, and the world at large, but paid the ultimate price.
— Halston opens Friday
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