When half the world watched the young new American President John F. Kennedy, the other half admired the boldness of his wife Jackie Kennedy. On the day of her inauguration as president, the woman noticed her famous hat. All women wanted the same.
This was the first step that led Roy Halston Frowick into a wacky carousel for the world of high fashion, celebrity, and celebrity. The famous hat, worn in 1961, went directly into the legacy of the style left by the man portrayed in the new Netflix series.
Known simply as Halston, there were many who would tell of his meteoric rise. Most famous was Steven Gaines’ documentary production “Simply Halston”, which inspired the new production by Ryan Murphy, producer of series such as “Glee” and “American Horror Story”.
Divided into five parts, Halston, which opens on Friday, May 14, shows Ewan McGregor in the role of the American designer – the epitome of New York from the 70s and 80s. Joel Schumacher will head a line-up with other names including Bill Pullman, Vera Farmiga and Rory Culkin.
The series doesn’t arrive without a bit of controversy. In anticipation of the premiere, Halston’s heirs voiced criticism of Netflix’s production this Monday, calling it “an inaccurate and fictional recording”.
Known as a man of luxury and excess, always surrounded by celebrities, Halston was also a homosexual. And he was the protagonist of a story as exciting in his rise as it was in his case.
From Iowa to the luxury of Studio 54
At first it was just Roy Frowick, who was born into a humble family of Norwegian descent and lived in the state of Iowa. He fell in love with sewing next to his grandfather and began making his first creations, especially hats, as a child. He never deviated from art.
He started at the very bottom after taking an art class in Chicago, working as a window designer before building his first business: a hat brand. They immediately became popular and earned him his first encounters with some Hollywood stars.
After opening his first store in Chicago, he moved to the city he needed to be if he wanted to be someone: New York. It was this change that led him on the path of Jacqueline Kennedy, who dared to wear a pillbox hat that was normally only used in the summer. In the midst of the chill of the swearing in, Jackie fell apart – and glowed. All thanks to Halston.
To make the episode even more unusual, the hat Jackie wore had a feature that wasn’t designed by Halston: a small accident dent that made everything even more unique. “Anyone who wanted to copy the look added the dent,” Halston noted at the time.
The famous Jackie Kennedy hat
The success led him to broaden his horizons. He also started designing women’s clothing, always with minimalist lines, based on tight silhouettes and fabrics like silk. They were the favorite pieces of actors, musicians, artists, all surrounded by luxury – and Halston.
The designer became known for his clothes and also for always being surrounded by stars. Liza Minelli would not let go. At his table he occasionally met Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Truman Capote or Mick Jagger. He’s hosted the craziest parties in town, filled with jewelry, gold, good food, lots of drinks, drugs, and sex.
Halston is also described as the first great designer to harness the power of influencers – who were simply the most recognizable faces in artistic society at the time. Around her, he guaranteed that his name would always be in the spotlight.
“It was fascinating how he courted these people,” reveals director Daniel Minahan, who underscores the important connection with Andy Warhol. “They helped each other.”
In 1973 he signed an agreement with Norton Simon, an investor that guaranteed funds for every approach and guaranteed Halston’s creative freedom. The designer also strove to take his creations everywhere and to democratize the high fashion pieces he sold to the famous he signed a contract with the JCPenny warehouses ten years later.
The agreement provided for the creation of a more accessible line to be offered for sale in warehouses. A move that could give you access to a gigantic market, but one that irritated your closest customers (and friends) by popularizing the Halston name.
The strategy failed. Not only has it ostracized regular customers, but common Americans have ignored their affordable pieces too. The contracts were terminated a year later.
After the disaster everything started to go wrong. The company, owned by Norton, was bought by another company. When the acquisitions were successful, Halston lost power. In 1984 he was even prevented from designing new pieces for the company that bore his name.
While struggling for control, he tried to find a way to buy back the company. He never succeeded and went away.
These have been difficult years for Halston, not just professionally but personally. He had a gay relationship with the artist Victor Hugo for several years. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, Halston contracted HIV. He would die at the age of 57, a victim of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a common sequel to AIDS patients.