I was looking for something to do yesterday so I rode my motorcycle to the Nassau County Museum of Art
which has an in-depth retrospective on the life and work of famed fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick. Halston
became so famous last century that he went by a single name (his middle), like Cher and Madonna.
What interests me about Halston is not his fashion designs but his role in society. In the Seventies, he was a celebrity who hung out at Studio 54
with close friends Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol
. Even more significant, in the Eighties he was the first haute couture designer to launch a line of low-priced clothes in a discount store (JC Penneys). That experiment was a failure but led to later efforts in the same direction by other designers. The clothing line he sold at JC Penneys, called Halston III, was attractive but prompted high-end stores like Bergdorf Goodman to drop him, fearing Halston's association with lower-class retailers would ruin their own elitist reputation.
Halston started out as a young gay boy in the Midwest whose seamstress mother taught him how to sew hats. He gathered attention for his creative hats which allowed him to move into the fashion industry. The pinnacle of his success was designing hats for Jackie Kennedy (Onassis) who wore his famous Pillbox Hat at JFK's 1961 inauguration.
Women stopped wearing hats in the Sixties so Halston moved to designing clothes. His designs were simple and elegant. There are several on display in these photos. The last two pictures show the inexpensive clothes he designed for JC Penney -- which appeal to me. Despite their low cost, they possess subtle style.
Halston was also known for being one of the first celebrities to license his name for other products (e.g., perfume). He is often associated with the synthetic fabric Ultrasuede
Halston's longest relationship (16 years) was with a man who was working as a male prostitute. Halston died in 1990 from AIDS.
Do you recognize his name? What do you think of his designs?