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Halston: Behind the Fashion in this Netflix Drama

Halston
COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Halston (Roy Frowick) was a fashion designer who gained international fame in the 1970s. Originally a milliner, Halston rose to fame after designing the pillbox hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy at the President’s inauguration. Sadly, hats fell out of fashion so he quickly moved to designing clothes. Renowned for designing minimalist clean creations and fabrics like cashmere and for bringing Ultrasuede to the market.

Lauren Bacall

The Netflix dramatic series follows Halston’s meteoric rise to fame. He dressed celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, and Liza Minnelli. Halston was extremely close to Minnelli and Ewan McGregor, who plays the designer, made it his business to meet her prior to filming the series to get a closer insight into the man himself. A colourful character, he held many star-studded parties at his stylish New York pad, known as 101.

Interview with Halston’s Costume designer, Jeriana San Juan

Costume designer, Jeriana San Juan, talks about recreating the wardrobe for the Haslton Netflix television series:

Were you familiar with Halston’s story and work when you first got involved with the show?

“Yes, I first connected with the project because I’m such a fan of Halston’s work. In my initial meetings with Dan Minahan, our fearless director, I gushed about my experience studying Halston’s work in fashion design school — pouring over images of his collections in the library at school and looking through archival footage. It was exciting to do something that married my costume design knowledge with my fashion design background.”

How did you approach dressing Halston in the show?

“In researching Halston, one of the most incredible things was finding people who had known him personally and who wanted to help this project because they wanted to help their friend. I came to know Halston’s personal style very intimately, and that began when I found a tailor named Gino Balsamo who worked at Halston Limited. He was the tailor in the shop assigned to make Halston’s personal clothes.”

“Halston only wore his own designs, and he wanted to wear fabrics that did all the things for him that they did for women; created ease, effortless strength, and effortless beauty.”

“Halston had unique nuances in his clothes — he created these pants with no side seam and specific pocket placements. Gino actually came to my shop and worked with us to create and pattern clothes the same way that he did for Halston.”

How did you collaborate with Ewan McGregor on Halston’s costuming?

“We worked very closely together not just on his costuming, but on the design process. He would come to the shop just to observe the tailors, or watch me do a fitting, to get a better idea of how a designer works. It was a very unique experience — we worked on how to pin clothes properly, how clothes are constructed and assembled, how to move through a workroom, and I even walked him through where my eyes go when I’m designing so he could better track his eyeline when he’s designing as Halston in the show.”

How did you source the key costumes for the show?

“Most of the pieces in our show on our main characters are created from scratch. I found vintage dealers from every corner of the world, but vintage clothes are often not in fantastic shape, and I wanted to make sure the costumes fit with the same ease and pristine effortless style that defines Halston.“

“There are also many original Halston pieces in the show. Halston’s entire archive was disassembled when he left the company, but I was able to find pieces that were tucked away. Lesley Frowick, Halston’s niece, had gifted a great deal of his work to Lipscomb University. I worked with a company called Toray International, the original manufacturer of Ultrasuede fabric, and they gave me a ton of Ultrasuede that was the same quality Halston used in his designing. We also worked with Tiffany & Co. to obtain all of the original Elsa Peretti jewelry.”

What about Halston’s work as a fashion designer was so ground-breaking?

“There’s an ease, a suaveness to his clothing — and even in his early work as a milliner. But if you look at the architecture and practical building of all those pieces, they’re actually quite complicated.”

“Halston’s work is very much like sculpture; he treated fabrics as his medium and manipulated them like a true artist. He would pleat, wrap, and use textiles in a way that was unconventional and celebrated a woman’s figure instead of creating rigid tailoring that bound it. It was all about ease and softness, and that approach is still influencing fashion today.”

About Halston

The limited series HALSTON follows the legendary fashion designer (Ewan McGregor), as he leverages his single, invented name into a worldwide fashion empire that’s synonymous with luxury, sex, status and fame, literally defining the era he lives in, 1970’s and ‘80’s New York — until a hostile takeover forces him to battle for control of his most precious asset… the name Halston itself.

Executive Produced by Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Alexis Martin Woodall, Daniel Minahan, Ewan McGregor, Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler of Killer Films, Eric Kovtun and Sharr White. Minahan also serves as the series director.

Written by Emma Crameri

Emma Crameri is a freelance lifestyle reviewer and writer. She is editor of the Brisbane-based food and lifestyle website Brisbanista.

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