August 22 2014

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3 posts tagged "Whitney Sudler-Smith"

London Goes In Search of Halston


There was a conspicuous lack of anyone who could pass for that mythical beast, the Halstonette, in the noticeably young audience for the first U.K. screening of Ultrasuede: In Seach of Halston on Monday night at the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road. Andrea Dellal had fond memories of escorting the legendary designer round Rio, but surely she was a mere child at the time. Co-host of the evening Nicky Haslam also had some personal—though not particularly favorable—memories to share. But Halston’s best buddy Bianca Jagger was out of town—dommage!—and Liza Minnelli, André Leon Talley, and Pat Cleveland, all of whom lend major heft to the film, were hardly likely to cross the pond for such an intimate event.

So it was down to director Whitney Sudler-Smith to ruminate on Halston’s significance, which was perfectly appropriate because Ultrasuede is from the documentary school of Roger and Me, where the filmmaker’s search for his subject turns him into the main character. Like a perverse imp on the director’s shoulder, Nellee Hooper was insisting his friend made the film to meet girls, but Sudler-Smith brushed off the suggestion. He said fashion interested him as a fascinating subject that he knew little about and Halston seemed like a good way to educate himself. He certainly casts himself as a good listener as his pundits weigh in on disco, decadence, and the unholy excesses that eventually upended Halston’s career. If Ultrasuede doesn’t exactly throw new light on the decline and fall, it had more than enough “previously unseen footage” to entertain an audience that included Sara Parker Bowles, Dan Macmillan, Sophia Hesketh, Stephen Jones, and Amanda Sheppard, also co-hosting. “It’s new Halston,” said Kinvara Balfour (pictured, with Sudder-Smith), another of the evening’s hosts, of her drapey gold jumpsuit. “I tried on a vintage piece and it just didn’t feel as good.” Such heresy would be music to the ears of new Halston designer Marios Schwab, who was part of a design contingent in attendance, along with Matthew Williamson and Issa’s Daniella Issa Helayel. She’s spent the last week fending off questions about Kate Middleton’s wedding dress (not to mention seeing knockoffs of the one she wore to announce her engagement sell for as little as £16 at her local Tesco). “Tonight, I just want to speak about me, myself, and I,” she said with a laugh, though the very notion of a Brazilian designer making the wedding dress of the future Queen of England is radical enough to merit the fuss.

Another radical sight—Giovanna Battaglia in Uggs. She’s broken two toes and is off heels for the foreseeable future. Gio in Uggs? What’s next? Anna Dello Russo in chinos?

Photo: Courtesy Photo

With A Little Help From Halston’s Friends


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

A New Doc Goes In Search Of Halston


The very name “Halston” conjures seventies excess and glamour—so much so that most people don’t even know his real name. (It’s Roy Halston Frowick, FYI.) But director Whitney Sudler-Smith went searching for the man behind the label (and the endless licensing, which Halston pioneered). His new doc, Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston, premieres tomorrow at the Tribeca Film Festival. Below, Sudler-Smith talks to about the friends (Diane von Furstenberg, one-time Halston model Anjelica Huston), the fashions, and the eventual fall.
Plus, check out a preview of the film below the interview.

Why make this movie, and why Halston?
I thought the whole glamorous, chic decadence of the seventies was interesting. So I explored doing a film on a figurehead of this incredible time in American history. Halston was so cool, how could you not do it?

You don’t spend much time on his pre-fame existence.
We kind of wanted to avoid the typical Biography Channel A-to-Z trajectory. We do say he was a Midwest boy, but we didn’t want to get into his early career working in Chicago. We wanted to get to the good stuff!

Halston had a minimalist aesthetic but lived a maximalist lifestyle. Is there a weird logic behind that?
New York in the seventies was incredible—the city was basically bankrupt, crime and drugs were endemic. In Times Square, you’d get mugged or stuck with a needle. It was a crazy time, and out of this grew an explosion of fashion and art and music. People had a bad hangover from Vietnam and Watergate, and all this complexity going on around them, and they essentially wanted simplicity in clothing. Halston played into that “less is more” aesthetic—you’d dress well, and simply, but you could also go out and disco in that dress.

His name was everywhere at one point. It was a good thing at first, but then it wasn’t.
He made his mark in the early seventies, before this advent of celebrity. He licensed everything from luggage to Girl Scout uniforms, which helped out from a financial standpoint—as well as the perfumes. With Reagan coming into office, his clothes sort of went out of fashion. It was tough. Continue Reading “A New Doc Goes In Search Of Halston” »