• Solange McKenzie

Halston: Fashion and Functionality

Roy Halston Frowick is an American designer who became a household name during the disco era in the 1970’s. His career began in the 1950’s when he was making and designing hats in Chicago. The buzz around his designs grew when the Chicago Daily News wrote about him and his hats. Some of his first customers included Gloria Swanson, Hedda Hopper, Kim Novak and Deborah Kerr. He then moved to New York City in 1957 and was a milliner for Lilly Daché and shortly after he became a milliner for Bergdorf Goodman.

Halston's career was furthered when he designed Jacqueline Kennedy’s pillbox hat, which she wore to the 1961 Presidential Inauguration of her husband, John F. Kennedy. Due to the attention gained from this hat, he was named “the premier fashion designer of all America”. After hats we no longer in fashion, Halston moved into designing womenswear with the financial backing of Estelle Mash, the wife of Braniff International Airways CEO, Harding Lawrence. With this financial backing, Halston could launch his first collection in 1969. The collection featured the minimalistic designs he is known for using the highest quality fabrics. In an interview with Vogue Halston said, “ the extra details didn’t work.” He was not a fan of the extra’s that did not serve a function, such as buttons or zippers that were only there for decoration. He also focused on giving women freedom, specifically for his pants designs. He brought the functionality concept to his designs of the 70’s when he released his Ultrasuede pants suit, this bringing functionality back to the forefront of fashion. Halston continued to use Ultrasuede when designing his popular shirtdress.

As Halston’s popularity grew, his designs were seen all over the disco scene. The freedom of his garments made them perfect to wear on the dance floor, especially for women. Liza Minnelli, Pat Cleveland, Beverly Johnson, Bianca Jagger, and even Elizabeth Taylor wore his designs. He soon expanded his line to menswear, lingerie, handbags and even Uniforms for Braniff Airways, the Pan and U.S Olympic teams, the Girl Scouts and the New York Police Department. Later in 1983, Halston signed a deal with J. C. Penney to sell a line of affordable clothing, however at the time this damaged the brand because higher end retailed felt the deal had cheapened Halston’s brand. Bergdorf Goodman dropped Halston shortly after the announcement had been made. BUT, this deal paved the way for future high end brands to sell their lines at more affordable stores.

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