Roy Halston Frowick (April 23, 1932 – March 26, 1990), known as Halston, was an American fashion designer of the 1970s. His long dresses or copies of his style were popular fashion wear in mid-1970s discotheques
Roy developed an interest in sewing from his mother, and he began creating hats and altering clothes for his mother and sister as a boy. Roy graduated Bosse High School in Evansville, Indiana, in 1950, then attended Indiana University for one semester. In 1952, Halston moved to Chicago, where he enrolled in a night course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and he worked as a window dresser.
Halston’s first big break came when the Chicago Daily News ran a brief story on his fashionable hats. In 1957, he opened his first shop, the Boulevard Salon, on North Michigan Avenue. It was at this point that he began to use his middle name as his professional moniker. During his childhood he had been referred to as Halston to distinguish between himself and his uncle Roy.
Halston moved to New York City in late 1957, first working for milliner Lilly Daché. Within a year, he had been named the co-designer at Daché, became acquainted with several fashion editors and publishers, and left Daché’s studio to become head milliner for department store Bergdorf Goodman in their customer milliner salon
Halston achieved great fame after designing the pillbox hat Jacqueline Kennedy wore to her husband’s presidential inauguration in 1961, and when he moved to designing women’s wear, Newsweek dubbed him “the premier fashion designer of all America.” His designs were worn by Bianca Jagger, Lauren Hutton, Liza Minnelli, Anjelica Huston, Gene Tierney, Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley, and Elizabeth Taylor setting a style that would be closely associated with the international jet set of the era.
Halston designed his first dress, a dark jade velvet wedding gown, for advertising legend Mary Wells Lawrence. Mrs. Lawrence was married to the CEO of Braniff International Airways, Harding Lawrence. She would be instrumental in bringing Halston to Braniff in 1976 to design Braniff’s Hostess, pilot, ticket agent, and ground personnel uniforms
As “the first designer to realize the potential of licensing himself,” his influence went beyond style to reshape the business of fashion. Through his licensing agreement with J.C. Penney, his designs were accessible to women at a variety of income levels. Although this practice is not uncommon today, it was a controversial move at the time. Halston, his perfume, was sold in a bottle designed by Elsa Peretti and it was supposedly the second biggest selling perfume of all time
Halston was very influential in the design of uniforms. In 1977 he was contracted by the airline Braniff International Airways to create a new look for their flight attendants. The muted browns, with distinctive “H” logo were a world away from the more flamboyant past uniform designs by Emilio Pucci. Halston created interchangeable separates in shades of bone, tan and taupe which the airline extended to the seat covers, using brown Argentinean leather.
The entire scheme was dubbed “Ultra Touch” by the airline in reference to Halston’s UltraSuede designs and was extremely evocative of the late 1970s. An elaborate party was thrown at Braniff’s Acapulco Executive House in January, 1977, dubbed Three Nights In Acapulco, to introduce the new Halston fashions along with the new and elegant Braniff International Airways.
He was asked by the U.S. Olympic Committee to design the Pan American Games and U.S. Olympic Team’s uniforms in 1976. He also designed the uniforms for the Girl Scouts, the New York Police Department, and the Avis Rent a Car System.
Despite his achievements, the increased pressures from numerous licensing deals, in particular that of J.C. Penney which demanded eight collections per year plus accessories, in addition to his Made to Order, Ready to Wear, and Haute Couture lines, all took their toll. Halston was a perfectionist and it was reported that he would not allow junior designers to design licensed products bearing his name.In October 1984, Beatrice Foods subsidiary the Playtex Corporation managers asked Halston to leave the Olympic Tower, headquarters of Halston Enterprise
Due to the rapid succession of hostile corporate takeovers during the subsequent four years, Halston was prevented from designing or selling clothes under his own name. Nevertheless, he continued to design clothing for his family and friends, including costumes for his friends Liza Minnelli and Martha Graham and her Martha Graham Dance Company.
Halston died on March 26, 1990.