Walk into any department store, and you’ll get a sense of the powerful brands built by high-end American designers: Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan. They created veritable fashion empires by leveraging their names to create lower-priced lines and sign profitable licensing agreements.
But before them all, there was Roy Halston Frowick – better known by the singular appellation Halston.
The subject of an eponymous Netflix miniseries starring Ewan McGregor, Halston became one of the earliest American designers to extend his brand to multiple price points. In doing so, he made designs that were normally out of reach for everyday Americans available to the masses.
But as fashion historians, we’ll often tell Halston’s story as a cautionary one. Though he made style seem effortless, his relationship with the fashion industry was anything but uncomplicated.
A born-and-bred Midwesterner, Halston found early success in hat design working as a custom milliner for Bergdorf Goodman. Halston soon became known as a trendsetter, and, in a notable triumph for the young designer, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy wore one of Halston’s signature pillbox hats at her husband’s inauguration.
Later in the 1960s, Halston made the foray into dress design. His success was equal parts talent and serendipity, and he once described his approach as “editing the mood of what’s happening.”