American Fashion designer, Roy Halston Frowick is famously known as Halston redefined American fashion in the 70s. His designs were lauded for being minimalistic and extremely comfortable. Halston paid intricate attention to the fact. His rise to fame wasn’t sudden, he worked hard for it but at a point, Halston lost his inspiration. The miniseries is based on his contrasting life and his relationship with his art.
Halston miniseries is adapted from Simply Halston, a book written by Steven Gaine. The miniseries is created by Daniel Minahan who depicts his story in 5 episodes of 40 minutes each. Ewan McGregor charmingly portrays the role of Halston.
The miniseries begins in 1961 when Halston is already a big name and owns his own line of designer hats. He rose to great fame when Jacqueline Kennedy (wife of President John F. Kennedy) sported a Halston Hat. However, by 1968, hats went out of fashion making him miserable. To strike a legacy and regain his popularity, Halston decides to open a store within a store. He wishes to become the first person who owns a complete chain of apparel under one roof, aiming to dress women from head to toe. He doesn’t want to repeat the past, by going one-apparel again.
Halston arranges his first fashion exhibition that ends up in a disaster. His friend, Joe Eula, a fashion illustrator, advised him to come up with his own signature style. Something that sets him apart. Hunting for inspiration, Halston finally brings to the world a minimalistic clean design of ready-to-wear women dresses prominently known for their comfortable wearing.
Even with everything setting him apart as an artist, Halston lacked investment to keep business running. He had his insecurities as an artist and lived in the constant panic of losing it all, his fame, his people, and his art. In 1973, a panic attack in Paris during the Battle of Versailles fashion show compelled him to sign a contract with Norton Simon selling his name to him. In return, David Mahoney (CEO of Norton Simon) promised Halston security and independence as an artist where he never has to think about finances again. Backed up with new confidence, Halston not only rules the Battle of Versailles fashion show but also expands his line to perfumes, luggage, carpet, and everything.
But everything that begins, has to someday meet its end. Halston rose to fame but soon lost his inspiration. The series follows his struggles with his creativity, his homosexual relationships, and cocaine.
Characterization of ‘Halston’ – Little Ship Lost At Sea
Halston never really recovered from childhood trauma. He loved his mother but never visited her (until she was dead) because she reminded him of all the violence, his father caused upon her. The trauma kept visiting the consciousness that made him incredibly vulnerable and insecure as an artist. He never confessed directly, but he always needed people to protect him. It was for this reason why he sold his name to Norton Simon under a contract. His Homosexuality also brought rejection to his disposal craving for validation even further. In short, his character was like a tabletop held in its position by the legs. Once the legs vanished the tabletop also came crashing on the floor.
Much of the characterization depicted in the miniseries and performed by Ewan McGregor portrayed his constant need for security. Halston illustrated all the distinct layers of being an artist (being an artist is a conflicted affair in itself). He was competitive, narcissistic, and insecure. He lived in a fear of losing his inspiration. But it was anxiety that pushed him off-limits. He wanted a place at the top, he wanted to create a safe environment. After losing Hat’s business, he created a complete chain not to face misery again. To gain confidence and win the Paris fashion show, he sold his name. And when Halston got secured, he lost his inspiration. It was the end of all his struggle, and it was the end of all of Halston. It won’t be incorrect to say that an artist works best in suffering. Happiness always becomes his/her sworn enemy.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Halston’ Ending Explained
In 1983, Norton Simon was acquired by Esmark. A change in management replaced David Mahoney, the man who promised protective hood to Halston. The new management started to notice Halston’s efficiency and inability to deliver his commitments. They took Halston from Halston leaving him devastated without a name.
“You sold your name, Halston. Anything you make or try to sell, Esmark owns that. For the rest of your life. You are not Halston anymore.”Halston’s Lawyer
It was not the end of agony, his long-time partner artist Victor Hugo got tested positive for HIV AIDS. Not directly suggested in the miniseries, but as per the original reports, he acquired AIDS from Victor Hugo. Victor blackmailed him for the money and also revealed to the press, about his heroin dependency and preference for gigolos. Halston was assaulted from all sides.
In his final years, he designed clothes for a longtime friend, Martha Graham, who used the clothing in her modern dance stage shows. He never used his signature again.
Ending Scene Analysis – When Creativity Ends, The Artist Dies
For most people, earning a livelihood is a 10 to 5 job. For most people, living life is about waiting for those periods of vacation when there is no work. But for an artist, his work is his lifeline. His life is his creativity. His livelihood ends with his creativity. He ends when he retires.
In an extremely powerful ending sequence, Halston retrospects his life, sitting by the pacific coast (San Francisco), embracing the blue sky, he comments, “Years ago, I’d look out there, and I’d look at that blue and I would think, What can I do with that blue?” But not anymore, now he only thinks about what a pretty blue it is.
If you look from an artistic perspective, there is a large difference between these two thoughts. When he has inspiration or creativity, he looks at things and muses to change them into something better, or do something extraordinary with them. Human curiosity has created everything we have around us today. We keep running our imaginations wild and we invent. We invent to bring new things to the world. It is what an artist does. He creates things. But like everything that has an expiry date, creativity ends too. When an artist can’t create, he is finished. His only reason for survival is taken away from him. An artist never dies in retirement, he dies of boredom. Lucky are the ones, who keep making art until they perish. However, Halston was one of the unlucky ones. Peace got him before death. His peace became a reason for his death. No longer insecure, no longer in pain, no longer in panic, Halston died in 1993.
Narrated in 5 episodes of 40 minutes each, the miniseries provide a glimpse of the artistic life of American Fashion Designer, Roy Halston Frowick aka Halston. It is streaming on Netflix.
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