The nonprofit With Love Halston is teaming up with the Fashion Institute of Technology to launch the Halston Challenge.
The designer’s niece Lesley Frowick, who leads the nonprofit, has been steering the effort, which is giving fashion design students the opportunity to participate in a competition to create Halston-inspired clothing using sustainable Ultrasuede. The fabric was a favorite of the designer, who died in 1990 at the age of 57.
Born Roy Halston Frowick, he rose up from Midwestern roots to international fame with one moniker, becoming one of the most influential American designers of the 20th century. His streamlined but sexy designs helped to define the ’70s style. With celebrity friends like Liza Minnelli and Elsa Peretti, Halston was often associated with that freewheeling decade, the Studio 54 crowd and the high-rolling ’80s.
But his niece Lesley has previously attested how the designer was overwhelmingly dedicated to his work, always with a sketch pad, thinking about the next collection and envisioning timeless creations. Halston was one of the American designers, who outshone their European counterparts in the 1973 Paris show that WWD’s famed publisher John B. Fairchild dubbed “The Battle of Versailles.” The new competition is meant to create a renewed appreciation for Halston’s work and to inspire a new generation of designers.
Frowick said Wednesday, “Halston, aside from being an innovative haute couturier, was a true patriot, who through his Herculean efforts, established American design on par, if not ahead of the European couture houses. I believe he would be thrilled and humbled to know that so many eyes are currently being trained through his legacy.”
With plans to stage the Halston Challenge at other schools down-the-road, the nonprofit launched the competition at FIT since New York was the city of the designer’s dreams and where he established his brand, his niece said, adding that FIT epitomizes “cutting-edge glamour and fashion education.” After Halston’s death, some of the garments from his archives were donated to The Museum at FIT. And The Gladys Marcus Library at FIT houses the Halston collections, which include fashion designs, sketches, photographs and over 400 scanned sketches of his hat designs. Halston started out as a milliner. In 2015, The Museum at FIT presented the exhibition “YSL + Halston: Fashioning the ’70s.”
FIT students will be vying for three scholarships — one for $5,000, another for $2,000 and a third for $1,000. The grand prize winner will also score an internship with the fashion designer Ralph Rucci, the opportunity to have their fashion illustrations published in FIDA: The Fashion Arts & Illustration Magazine, and a commemorative Elsa Peretti heart-shaped Tiffany & Co. award box.
The winners will be revealed later next month at an event. In honor of what would have been Halston’s 90th birthday, With Love Halston will host a celebration of his life at the National Arts Club on April 24. The festivities will include the Halston x FIT student fashion show, a silent auction to benefit the With Love Halston Scholarship Fund and a book signing by Frowick for her tome “Halston, Inventing American Fashion.”
Personally appointed by Halston to keep his light alive, Frowick has furthered his legacy in other ways beyond the aforementioned Rizzoli-published book. She curated the exhibitions “Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede” at the Andy Warhol Museum and the retrospective “Halston Style” at the Nassau County Museum.
”Halston, always a visionary, knew someone from the family should be in place to be able to speak on his behalf, to preserve his legacy and push it forward. I felt that now is the time to launch the significant With Love Halston scholarship initiative to educate the younger generations on Halston the man, his early influences and his design genius so that the original Halston, the man, is not lost to a brand,” she said. “My greatest hope is that our With Love Halston nonprofit organization will endure for years beyond mine, so that America will produce more visionary designers to make Halston proud.”
The designer’s name had a resurgence last fall, due to the “Halston” series on Netflix starring Ewan McGregor. However, the biopic was not well-received by Frowick and other relatives of the famed designer, who described it as “unauthorized.”
Next month’s posthumous birthday celebration will feature many from the industry’s brain trust. Fashion editor Marylou Luther will share some remarks with the crowd. Fashion historians Harold Koda, John Tiffany and Patricia Mears will be among the guests, as will fashion illustrator and FIT professor Steven Stipelman, and designers Ralph Rucci, Jeffrey Banks and Naeem Khan. The fashion-centric guest list also includes Bob D’Loren, chief executive officer of XCel Brands, which now owns the Halston trademarks; Phil Miller; Ken Downing; David Croland, and models Karen Bjornson, Alva Chinn, Pat Cleveland and Toni Spinelli.
Photographers Dustin Pittman and Christopher Makos are expected as well as Eric Shiner, the former director of the Andy Warhol Museum, and Stefano Palumbo of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation. Fittingly, DJ Robbie Leslie of Studio 54 will handle the music.
Proceeds from the National Arts Club event will benefit the fall 2022 Halston Challenge at Marangoni Miami.
Eight finalists in the FIT competition will gain insights from FIT’s adjunct assistant professor of fashion design Michael Kaye and from Stipelman, professor of fashion design, who previously sketched Halston designs as a fashion illustrator at WWD. Students in the competition will design looks from the five-point rubric. With Love Halston is giving all of the finalists a $200 stipend to use for sewing supplies for their creations. They won’t have to worry about fabric either. As the fabric sponsor, Ultrasuede/Toray is offering each participant eight yards of fabric. Other sponsors of the Halston Challenge include With Love Halston, Rucci, Banks and D’Loren.