Halston may have gotten his big break in 1961, when Jacqueline Kennedy wore his era-defining pillbox hat to her husband’s inauguration, but it was the Seventies that he truly owned. He was the New York designer of that decade. “Halston,” remarked Bill Blass to WWD, “was really the first designer to make an original American statement.” Aside from turning Ultrasuede into a household name, Halston spun casual, ultrawearable clothes—sweater sets, the shirtdress—into SA gold. “Most salable collection,” said Chicago retailer Stanley Korshak in 1972. “We can’t get Halston’s clothes in the store fast enough.” Halston himself credited his spare, straightforward style to his roots: “Coming from the Midwest as I do, I’ve got a practical mind.” Yet clothes are only part of the Halston legacy; the boy from Des Moines, Iowa, was synonymous with all things glamorous and glossy—and a little dangerous—in the Disco Age. WWD covered the endless stream of parties, many at the epic Studio 54, that Halston and his jet-set entourage haunted so fabulously. It was a no-holds-barred life of excess—Halston owned a six-figure seaplane and had a full-time office cook at his tony 18,000-square-foot Olympic Towers headquarters—that only crashed and burned all the harder once he signed with J.C. Penney in 1983, infuriating his high-end retail accounts. A year later, he lost the rights to his company and name. “He was the most influential designer of the Seventies,” Oscar de la Renta told WWD when Halston died in 1990. “He remains an inspiration to American designers today.”
Moment 46: Prodigal Son
Halston truly owned the Seventies. Despite his spare, straightforward style, he was synonymous with all things glamorous in the Disco Age.
Special IssueWWD 100 issue 11/01/2010