According to the lede of his 1990 obituary in The New York Times, Roy Halston Frowick, a.k.a. Halston, "personified American fashion in the 1970's." What would Studio 54 have been without Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger doing the Bump in their Halston jumpsuits and jersey halters?
The designer heralded the nation's return to glamour—OK, make that unabashed hedonism—as the high-living Halstonettes kicking the shopworn hippie look to the proverbial curb. With Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, and Truman Capote at his side, Halston became synonymous with the in-est of late-night in crowds. He also became synonymous with licensing. You name it, he slapped his label on it: furs, luggage, flight attendant uniforms, cosmetics, fragrance, raincoats, even carpets. But—as these cautionary tales usually go—all this branding excess ultimately led to the house's downfall. Remember, this was decades before the concept of high-low chic became mainstream (a good 25 years before Rodarte, for instance, hit the Gap), and Halston's glittering image never quite recovered after he inked a 1982 deal with J.C. Penney. Bergdorf Goodman, which in 1966 had been the first store to sell his designs, dropped him like a hot potato. Shortly afterward, Halston lost control of the company completely.
Since his death from complications from AIDS in 1990, several attempts have been made to restore the brand to its former glory. It was relaunched in 1997, and a stream of designers stepped through the revolving door. But only the fifth hire, Bradley Bayou, had any hint of commercial success. Then, in a dramatic turn of events, the film mogul Harvey Weinstein—spurred on by Tamara Mellon, the founder of Jimmy Choo—bought the company in 2007. Weinstein installed Versace alumnus Marco Zanini as heir apparent number six and added Mellon and stylist Rachel Zoe (like many L.A. types, a devotee of vintage Halston) to the creative board. Zanini's first runway collection garnered only lukewarm reviews, and soon both he and Zoe were out of the picture. But Weinstein may yet have another reputation-reviving surprise up his sleeve: A documentary on the disco superstar is reportedly in the works.