From fashion fame to a deal gone wrong, the elegant designs and glamorous lifestyle of Roy Halston Frowick, famously known by his middle name, has re-emerged and unpacked itself on the big screen with director Frédéric Tcheng’s newest noir-style documentary, ‘Halston’.
The midwestern-raised fashion designer began his career designing hats at Bergdorf Goodman. Soon Halston began expanding his designs to showcase a variety of luminous gowns and chic, flexible pantsuits catered to the diversity of the female body. In an interview, Halston acknowledged the overwhelming pride he felt when he was a woman of any size, shape or color looking elegant and confident in his designs. Halston’s sought-after designs surpassed high-fashion taboos and finally put American couture on the map, most notably at an international, invite-only fashion show at the Palace of Versailles in 1973.
Halston built his fashion empire at the Olympic Tower in Manhattan and became the first American celebrity designer. His friendship with broadway star Liza Minnelli and his rambunctious, glamorized nightlife at Studio 54 only added to the shimmering throne Halston placed himself on.
Minnelli percieved the radiant, swirling glamour of Halston’s creations with the notion that “Halston’s clothes danced with you.”
It wasn’t until a fateful business venture, that led to Halston’s unfortunate decline and tainted legacy. After years of drug-induced partying and business decisions, Halston fell deeply ill with AIDS and found peace in his final years living in San Francisco and re-connecting with his joyous familial roots.
Frédéric Tcheng showcases Halston’s inspiring and secretly tumultuous rise and decline in his saucy and fabulous documentary rightfully entitled Halston. Dramatic, yet heartwarmingly humorous, Halston is a dissection into the designer’s life, only slightly undermined by a fictional, noir-style investigation, which frames the storyline, and a 2 hour-long run time.
The artificial, clearly staged framing device added to the extreme length of the film. The narration casts a fashion writer and investigator Tavi Gevinson as a nosey secretary, rummaging through the Halston archives including top-secret files and analog tapes to discover the real story behind his downfall. The juxtaposition of the various interviews, to the noir-style and unnatural structure of the narration appeared distracting and in excess to the already engaging account of Halston’s life. Personally, the film could stand perfectly on its own without the poorly executed narration framework. Although the noir-style attempted to mirror Halston’s party and glamorous lifestyle, it seemed out of place and alluded more to a period of time 30 years before Halston’s career took off.
Tcheng’s highly researched , charmingly funny, yet emotionally heartbreaking film journey could undoubtedly stand on its own, and remains highly engaging, despite the out of place fictional framework.
After its Sundance Premiere, Halston was acquired for distribution by The Orchard. Halston premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 28th at 8pm.
Check out a trailer for the documentary below!