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April 21 2014

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With A Little Help From Halston’s Friends

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Whitney Sudler-Smith’s documentary Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston teases out the complexities of an enigmatic figure by communing with those who knew him best—think My Architect by way of Studio 54). But getting the late designer’s nearest and dearest to reminisce on camera was no easy feat. “At first no one was really willing to talk,” the director said at the film’s West Coast premiere at LACMA last night. “I think they were afraid I was going to go the salacious route.” Sudler-Smith spent four years charming his way into the foyers of New York’s fashion and society elite, but he credits Liza Minnelli, arguably the closest of Halston’s many close pals (she’s pictured with the designer, left), with helping him initially get his foot in the door. “She was my first interview, and I think after she came on board, people realized I was legit.” Indeed, after his Minnelli coup, Sudler-Smith was able to score interviews with everyone from Billy Joel (who is seen regaling the camera crew with an organ rendition of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”) to Vogue‘s André Leon Talley (who playfully scolds Sudler-Smith for interrupting him). But it was a Champagne-fueled chat with former Halston protégé Naeem Khan that the director cites as his most memorable experience in making the film. “I think I wound up passing out in a pile of cardboard boxes after that interview,” he admitted. “It was very decadent. Very Halston.”

Photo: Tom Wargacki / Getty Images

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