Halston Might Not Be the Greatest Show But You'll Binge-Watch It Anyway
For anyone who doesn’t know Halston’s story: poor Iowa-born boy becomes milliner to Jackie O., transitions to legendary fashion designer, conquers NYC, revolutionizes luxury fashion. One of the first to understand and use the extraordinary influence of celebrities he develops friendships with Liza Minelli, Elsa Peretti and Andy Warhol.
A symbol of the extravagance of the 70’s and 80’s, his ascension is cut short by multiple excesses, bad business decisions and questionable taste in men. A Faustian deal offers money but dilutes his brand. Another business deal leads to the loss of the asset that he valued the most: his name. He dies young of AIDS without ever regaining the rights to use his name.
While Halston asks himself “Am I a businessman or an artist” Ryan Murphy, the producer seems to have decided that neither options were very important for the designer and presents him mainly as a 70’s gay icon. Roy Halston Frowich’s family called the show an “inaccurate, fictionalized account” of the designer’s life.
For fashion lovers this show is a joy and a disappointment. Watching Ewan McGregor chain smoking, wearing those stylish black turtlenecks as he drapes models is such a powerful image I will forever associate it with bias cut long dresses. But fashion is rather atmospheric and not the main theme of the show, which is a shame, because Halston’s deceptively simple dresses were after all the quintessence of the flamboyant 70’s.
Fashion lovers will particularly appreciate the episode named Battle of Versaille, the fundraising event that had American designers compete against French counterparts. The event gave American fashion an international recognition and transformed the industry forever.
Halston, the show, is also a cautionary tale for creative people who consider bringing in investors. “Am I a businessman or an artist” will be asked again and again by designers slowly sacrificing creative control for financial independence.
Yes, it’s not a great show, the image is beautiful but the dialogue is predictable and the peaceful “walk into the sunset” doesn’t quite match such a turbulent life. And yet, we’ll watch it, probably more than once, because Halston story is not unique to him.
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