RISE AND SHINE

Michael Halpern’s disco-deca­dent pieces chan­nel a new res­o­nance in these dispir­it­ing days. jacquie ang finds out from the shy de­signer how he re­de­fines eman­ci­pa­tion, one se­quin at a time

Prestige (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Michael Halpern’s disco-deca­dent pieces chan­nel a new res­o­nance in these

dispir­it­ing days

IT’S TRUE THAT not all he­roes wear capes. Some are in stealth-mode black, such as Michael Halpern, whose per­sonal style is in con­trast to his trippy, re­splen­dent de­signs that have be­come mood-en­hanc­ing ar­mour you put on to get through the day.

Halpern’s Pan­tone-pow­ered glam­orous num­bers fes­tooned with ritzy se­quins have cat­a­pulted him to fame since his de­but col­lec­tion in 2017. The Cen­tral Saint Martins alum of­ten cites his mother’s sto­ries of 1970s New York as in­spi­ra­tion for his Stu­dio 54-es­que cre­ations, of which fa­mil­iar sil­hou­ettes and his un­apolo­getic pen­chant for pail­lettes have taken on a new rel­e­vancy.

The pop­u­lar­ity of his de­signs is a re­ac­tion to what’s go­ing on in the world right now, he sur­mises. “I think the world is re­ally scary. You turn on the news and it’s quite sad ev­ery­where, in Asia, in Europe, in Amer­ica where I come from, it’s kind of a dark time. No mat­ter what you’re go­ing through, be­ing able to put some­thing on and have that mo­ment of free­dom, and to be a lit­tle elated is good for your men­tal health, for your friends and fam­ily you’re with… Peo­ple want to feel good.”

The self-pro­fessed shy de­signer’s flashy se­quin-smoth­ered forms of es­capism have won him ad­mir­ers the likes of celebri­ties (Mar­ion Cotil­lard was the first to take Halpern to the Cannes red car­pet), re­tail­ers (he scored over 15 ma­jor stock­ists around the world fol­low­ing his first col­lec­tion), and edi­tors (Bri­tish Vogue singled him out as “the can­di­date poised to take Bob Mackie’s ti­tle as Sul­tan of Se­quins”).

Ask Halpern about his ob­ses­sion with se­quins and his re­ply is un­pre­ten­tiously sim­ple. “I love it. I think the big­gest thing for me is tex­ture, so when you have some­thing that gives you dif­fer­ent tex­tures, you can play with colour and depth in so many ways. It’s been so ex­cit­ing to re­work it so it’s al­ways fresh. But I’m not say­ing that we’re go­ing to use it for­ever.”

His Spring/Sum­mer 2019 col­lec­tion that re­cently showed con­tin­ued to bring on the bling by ex­plor­ing other ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing bril­liant gold foil, high-gloss pa­tent leather and strik­ing mul­ti­coloured ot­toman. The de­signer calls it “a turn­ing point”.

But his ex­ten­sion into high-shine

se­quin al­ter­na­tives was not meant as an an­swer to de­trac­tors, he clar­i­fies. “You look at de­sign­ers who use the same fab­rics ev­ery sea­son, which be­come a sig­na­ture. Maybe se­quins are a lot louder, so peo­ple keep ask­ing what I’ll do next. But I will keep us­ing se­quins be­cause I love it, and it sells. Not to say that we won’t in­cor­po­rate other el­e­ments, be­cause we want to grow the busi­ness and be free to be cre­ative. But we’ll find ways to make se­quins new and rel­e­vant.”

One ap­proach is to tap time­less sil­hou­ettes. “Now, more than ever, women are buy­ing spe­cial pieces.” he ob­serves. Case in point: The daz­zling pink and red mini dress that jew­eller Lynn Ban donned at its joint trunk show with Club 21 Sin­ga­pore. “It’s some­thing that women of dif­fer­ent ages can wear. It’s youth­ful and bright, yet it’s not risqué.”

New York-based Sin­ga­porean de­signer Bann cre­ated bold hoop ear­rings in out­sized geo­met­ric shapes and elec­tric hues for Halpern’s Au­tumn/Win­ter 2018 col­lec­tion. The pair con­nected through renowned fash­ion stylist Patti Wil­son. Their ca­ma­raderie is ev­i­dent — Ban has been play­ing tour guide here. “I love Chi­nese food. It’s my favourite cui­sine,” Halpern shares. “I can have roast pork ev­ery day.”

Un­like the In­sta­gram-pro­lific Ban, Halpern doesn’t have a per­sonal so­cial me­dia ac­count. “I don’t re­ally text; I call ev­ery­one. I don’t want to lose touch with my fam­ily and friends, but I don’t want to have a tex­ting re­la­tion­ship.” In fact, con­ver­sa­tion is the start­ing point of his cre­ative process, as he likes to lis­ten to peo­ple, re­veals the Amer­i­can, who snagged a Bri­tish Emerg­ing Tal­ent award for wom­enswear at the Bri­tish Fash­ion Awards 2017 and is build­ing buzz for his brand in Lon­don.

We can look for­ward to more Halpern ac­ces­sories next year when his Spring/ Sum­mer 2019 col­lec­tion ar­rives. “We of­ten get asked for a bag to go with the clothes,” Halpern re­veals, “so we’ll prob­a­bly start look­ing at that soon”.

BE­LOW: MICHAEL HALPERN WITHLYNN BAN AT CLUB 21, WEAR­ING WHAT HE CALLS HIS “BRIGHT­EST OUT­FIT”

FROM TOP: HALPERN’S AU­TUMN/WIN­TER 2018 COL­LEC­TION IS IN­SPIRED BY NAN KEMP­NER’S LOVE OF CLASH­ING STYLES; LYNN BAN’S JEW­ELLERY FOR HALPERN

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