Fashion commentator Leon Hall died Wednesday in Quito, Ecuador, where he had been living after leaving New York several years ago.
Hall, 77, passed away at Hospital Vozandes from complications from a lung infection, according to Hall’s sister Wanda Jackman.
A troubadour in fashion television, Hall was most widely recognized for his role in developing E! Entertainment Television’s “Fashion Emergency.” He was also known as co-presenter of “Fashion Police,” which started 1995, and also had runs with “The Golden Hanger Awards” and “Tailgate Superstars.” His whippet-fire critiques made him a favorite with viewers in what was then an emerging genre and Hall never lost his sharp-edged point of view.
Melissa Rivers said Friday, “Leon Hall was part of the original ‘Fashion Police’ team. He brought humor and expertise to every show. He will always hold a special place in my heart.”
But Hall was a consummate professional when approached by strangers off-air, according to Keith Kaplan, founder of The Kaplan Group and former director of the Fur Information Council of America. “When Leon was on ‘Fashion Emergency’ and he was doing the red carpet with Joan [Rivers], you would walk down the street with Leon and he couldn’t walk 25 feet. Everybody wanted a piece of Leon, and he was always so gracious and so kind. He never dismissed them. He was always offering a smile, a flattering comment and even a hug. He understood that they were the reason for his good fortune.”
His post-TV career included writing for Soapcity, Zink magazine and other outlets. In a 2013 interview with Hunter Tylo, Hall said, “Be memorable. Did you see that amazing velvet purple, blue and copper dress? That’s memorable. Black is forgettable. Anybody can do that.”
Addressing corporate America’s increasing casualization at that time, Hall said, “There are lots of women who don’t have to get more dressed up than jeans or khakis to go to work. Instead of doing that same old boring sweatshirt, which is very unbecoming and even the name sounds bad, why not do a beautiful red sweater or a lime green turtleneck or something to give you a boost? The minute you walk into a room people will just smile because your clothes should have some kind of amusement.”
His oversize personality also enabled him to have a cabaret show at The Metropolitan Room at one point. Hall also relied on his TV fans when he launched a signature fur collection geared for curvy shoppers in 2006. For a good part of his career, Hall was a supporter of the Dallas Mart and the Dallas Fashion Merchandising College. Born in Greenville, S.C., hall grew up in Dallas, drawing fashion from the time he was a child. His sister Wanda Jackman said before he went on to New York University, “In junior high school and high school, he would design clothes for the principal who would have them made. He was always very smart and very creative.”
“At 20 years old, he moved to New York and that’s forever.” Jackman said. Around 2011 he retired to Quito, once writing, “I love the village, not just for the shopping but to savor the air, and the colors and textures of the buildings, plants, and cobblestones that turn a million colors, when misty. The warm sincerity of the people and their wonderful smiles in Ecuador.”
While Hall’s TV personality was unfailingly snappish, he and his sister never had an argument even as children, Jackman said. “He took such care of me and he protected me. He just was my hero. Most people can’t say that about their brother.”