NEW YORK — So what does Halston look like the fifth time around? It’s a little bit Halston, a little bit James Galanos.
When James J. Ammeen, chief executive officer of Halston LLC, named Bradley Bayou as the company’s creative director in December, he charged the designer with one mission: "Do your own thing. We don’t design by committee."
So Bayou relocated the creative center of Halston to his home turf in Los Angeles, where he was designing a signature collection with his own studio and shop on the corner of Robertson and Melrose, and where the signage will soon be changed to Bradley Bayou for Halston.
What he brought back to New York on Wednesday was an 18-piece introductory collection for fall reflecting a new approach to the subject matter: the clean simplicity of Halston mixed with some of Bayou’s taste for the experimental. It helped that his atelier is staffed with seven original members of Galanos’ Hollywood workshop, and Bayou put them to the test in their draping and finishing skills.
"I really wanted to separate myself from the Halston image for the first collection," Bayou said. "It was important for me to show what I’m about. I want to make that personal connection."
Viewers of the Academy Awards got a first glimpse of his take on the Halston label with a corseted silver gown that pointed to Queen Latifah’s cleavage like a flashing neon sign, which should only be considered a teaser as to what’s to come. Bayou worked the corsetry theme through more than half the fall season, turning a gold antique obi into an extended corset dress or raising the waist of a couple of taffeta ballgown skirts with wide-belted and boned corsets, then topping them with a sheer blouse made of strands of blue beads or delicate Solstiss lace. He similarly deconstructed the classic tuxedo into a black duster jacket over a floor-length satin cummerbund skirt or a sweater made of woven strips of ribbon.
"I was looking for clean lines, sumptuous materials and color," said Bayou, referring to the taste for Halston in him. "And I was looking to be a little bit experimental."Where Bayou diverges on his own is adding a bit of humor to the clothes, such as a cocktail dress made of square paillettes the color of copper, looking like strips of film in an homage to his red-carpet clientele. Also funny, Bayou originally wanted to send out one of the taffeta skirts with no top at all — a little bit Rudi Gernreich.
"It’s all really about sex in the end, about being sexually attractive," Bayou said. "I love drama in the back of a gown. When a really beautiful woman walks into a room, most men pretend that they don’t see her, but when she turns around, they all stare. So they should look great from behind to make a really great impression."
The point was to demonstrate the flexibility of the collection, made up of separates that can be put together in different ways to appeal to a variety of body types, something Bayou has stressed in his democratic approach to creating a Halston for every man.
This debut, however, may be somewhat out of their reach, with wholesale prices ranging from $1,500 for an aubergine velvet skirtsuit to $3,180 for a corseted skirt and beaded blouse. But this is just the high-end beginning of Halston’s plans for expansion under Ammeen’s stewardship, which is moving into high gear since Kathy Landau, a brand development specialist, joined as vice president to develop new licensing and merchandising programs in a variety of categories.
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