Halston: Starring Ewan McGregor

Fri, 09. Jul. 2021
A million US Dollars in the 1970s could actually buy you something, even in Manhattan. Halston (1932 – 1990) flanked by devotees Elizabeth Taylor (1932 – 2011) and Liza Minnelli (born 1946) in the 1970s. Photograph: Courtesy of Everett Collection

Caution: though sumptuous, not for the faint-hearted.

Netflix based this series on the 1991 biography by Halston contemporary and New York native Steven Gaines. The author knew Halston for decades but never interviewed him. Moreover, having incensed Halston with his scathing roman-à-clef about the New York discotheque Studio 54, Gaines left his hometown of New York altogether 11 years before this biography.

“There’s nothing worse than a self-hating gay Jew,” said Gaines of himself, only last month in an interview, when he confessed to have had only one conversation with Halston, ever. The product of a petit-bourgeois upbringing and a dysfunctional Brooklyn family, Gaines seems besotted with glamour and wealth, which he chronicled in his books, including his autobiography. In the latter, he describes his fight to join and revel in the company of the rich and famous on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in a private psychiatric clinic, rather than being committed to a state institution, after a failed suicide at 15.

Halston, whose life and work are equally fascinating, is little known on this continent. Whatever anyone may claim, this series brings the man to an utterly new and global audience. Born during the Great Depression in the American mid-west, he studied at Indiana University and the Art Institute of Chicago. He died 31 years ago, aged 58, and stopped working well before then. Hence, the historical context which might well interest readers more than fiction.

Whilst Halston anything and everything for the masses can still be bought, his signature bespoke gowns have fortunately found their way into museum collections. Switzerland is indeed lucky to posses part of Halston history at the Musée Suisse de la Mode in the spa town, Yverdonles-Bains.

Milliner, a lady’s hat maker, is not a word on the lips of most. Jackie Kennedy, whose children were pupils at the Chalet Marie José in Gstaad, and her pillbox hat debuted at her husband’s US Presidential Inauguration in 1961, put the name of Halston, the man who designed it, on the lips of American high society. While lady’s hats faded from the everyday, this particular milliner shone as a visionary haute couturier.

Elsa Peretti Gstaad habituée and jewelry designer, Elsa Peretti sadly passed away in March, aged 80. Her jewelry and designs for Tiffany & Co. feature in museums collections on both sides of the Atlantic. As a lady, and after her father cut her off financially, she taught French here in Gstaad.

Studio 54 Iconic New York discotheque and famed den of debauchery, Studio 54 opened in 1977 for only 33 months. If you weren’t there, or even if you were but can’t quite remember, enjoy the spectacle. For the rise and fall, watch the documentary by the same name also on Netflix.

Halston’s house
Shortly before his death in 1990, Halston sold his famed party-palace on New York’s Upper East Side to Gstaad habitués Gianni Agnelli and Gunter Sachs as their garçonnière. Agnelli eventually sold his stake in the property to Sachs, whose estate sold it in turn to another American visionary haute couturier, Tom Ford.




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Issue 6 | 2021

Wait, can this be the last editorial of this summer? Must be because of the relativity thing. Relativity of time – a wonderful concept to toy around with. Not as a theoretical physicist, way too complicated. No, I mean as a layman.