Roy Halston Frowick, also known as Halston (23 April 1932 – 26 March 1990) was a clothing designer of the 1970s. His long dresses or copies of his style were popular fashion wear in mid-1970s discotheques.
Roy Halston Frowick was born on April 23, 1932 in Des Moines, Iowa, the second son of a Norwegian-American accountant. Roy developed an interest in sewing from his mother, and he began creating hats and altering clothes for his mother and sister as a child. 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 worked as a window dresser at the age of 18.
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 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 1961 presidential inauguration, 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, Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley, and Elizabeth Taylor, setting a style that would be closely associated with the international jet set of the era.
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 JC 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 was the second biggest selling perfume of all time.
Halston was very influential in uniform designs. His designs were featured on the very popular in its day Braniff. His designs were more muted than the airline’s past uniform designs by Emilio Pucci. He made interchangeable separates in shades of bone, tan, taupe, and brown. He also designed the seat covers that were added on the aircraft and known as the “Ultra look”. He was asked by the US Olympic Committee to design the Pan American US Olympic team uniforms in 1976. He also designed the Girl Scout uniforms and those of the NY police department. Avis car rental company was another notable uniform contract.
Despite his achievements, the increased pressures from numerous licensing, in particular that of JC Penney that demanded eight collections per year plus accessories (he was a consummate perfectionist and would not allow junior designers to design licensed products bearing his name) in addition to his Made to Order, Ready to Wear and Haute Couture lines, all took their toll. In October 1984, Beatrix subsidiary Playtex corporate managers asked Halston to leave the Olympic Towers, headquarters of Halston Enterprises. Due to the rapid succession of hostile corporate take overs during the subsequent four years, Halston was prevented from designing or selling clothes under his own name.. He nevertheless continued to design clothing for his family and friends, including costumes for his dear friends Liza Minnelli and Martha Graham and her Martha Graham Dance Company.
On March 26, 1990, with his loving family by his side, Halston died of lung cancer complicated by HIV in San Francisco, California. In June 1990 Liza Minnelli sponsored a standing room only tribute at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall that was followed by a reception hosted by his very close friend Elsa Peretti.