VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - TRENDS - THE DANDY

Hal­ston is one of the most en­dur­ing names in Amer­i­can high fash­ion. It rolls off the tongue. He had the smile of an Ital­ian game–show host, spoke like a royal with a mouth­ful of hot tea, the pres­ence of a five–star ho­tel gigolo, an all–Amer­i­can jaw­line, a neat butt, tidy eye­brows and an ad­dress book that read like the A–list it was, from Liz to Liza ( " Tay­lor and Min­nelli to you" ). His life is the stuff of so many films. On the old pho­tos you can see him cov­ered in con­fetti with Yves Saint Lau­rent and Nan Kemp­ner, or squir­ing a seem­ingly im­per­vi­ous Bianca Jag­ger. You won­der how many put– downs he could en­gi­neer per minute in the wee small hours at Stu­dio 54.

But the name of Hal­ston has been in limbo since he died, and the empty shell of one of the chicest US fash­ion houses has changed hands more than five times since Hal­ston’s demise. A dozen de­sign­ers and stylists have tried to breathe new life into the la­bel, so far with­out any real suc­cess. Born in 1923, his first Big Thing was to de­sign the pill­box hat worn by Jackie Kennedy for JFK’s in­vesti­ture. Andy Warhol said Hal­ston’s cat­walk shows were “the art form of the 1970s”. His clothes have scarcely aged and re­main un­de­ni­ably fash­ion­able. He nipped the hip­pie aes­thetic in the bud and re­turned to more clas­sic, more sex­u­ally–de­fined lines, in crepe and chif­fon in­spired by his master, Cristóbal Ba­len­ci­aga, but with an Amer­i­can twist. His fash­ion her­itage con­tin­ues to be pow­er­fully evoked each sea­son by ad­mir­ing suc­ces­sors like Tom Ford, Ralph Lau­ren and Michael Kors.

In the 1980s, li­cences for bed linens and fra­grances and hand­bags aplenty made Hal­ston a house­hold name, but in­evitably di­luted his aura. Hal­ston was im­mensely wealthy, and seemed to float in a sea of cham­pagne. A worka­holic, he would stay in his stu­dio un­til mid­night ev­ery night and then head off for his sec­ond of­fice, Stu­dio 54. The filmic re­con­sti­tu­tion of his “after hours” in his apart­ment on 63rd Street would no doubt need a spe­cial rat­ing from the board of cen­sors.

Hal­ston died of an Aids–re­lated ill­ness in 1990, leav­ing be­hind a glit­ter­ing im­agery that has now been brought to­gether by his niece and con­fi­dante in a beau­ti­fully pro­duced mono­graph.

“HAL­STON: IN­VENT­ING AMER­I­CAN FASH­ION” by Les­ley Frow­ick, with a pref­ace by Liza Min­nelli,

Riz­zoli, $ 75 (!out 11th Novem­ber!) .

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