The family of late designer Halston, along with the team behind WithLoveHalston.org hosted an afternoon of fashion, art and anecdotes last Sunday in New York City to honor what would have been the designer’s 90th birthday. Fashion luminaries such as Fern Mallis, Ken Downing, designers Ralph Rucci, Naeem Khan, and jeweler David Yurman, were on hand to raise a champagne toast to the father of minimalist glamour. Fundraising took place by way of a live auction of Halston memorabilia including the designer’s original sketches, an Elsa Peretti designed horseshoe belt, and even a home-cooked Indian dinner prepared by red carpet designer Naeem Khan whose first job in the US at the age of eighteen was as Halston’s assistant.
The event inaugurated a new scholarship initiative, the Halston Challenge, with the Fashion Institute of Technology and a student fashion show of looks created entirely in Ultrasuede, the fabric popularized by the designer in the 70s, was presented to a soundtrack by a Studio 54 DJ. Proceeds from the soiree go towards the With Love Halston mission which awards scholarships to the next generation of fashion designers inspired by the iconic legacy of Halston. The eight finalists were given a stipend of 200 dollars to use toward sewing supplies and up to eight yards of fabric sponsored by TORAY Ultrasuede.
“My uncle Halston was a creative forward thinking genius with a very generous heart,” said Lesley Frowick. “It is in this spirit and the continuum of his legacy that I am so excited to provide rising FIT students a helping hand through our With Love Halston not for profit foundation.”
New generation of illustrators and designers celebrate legacy of Halston
Added to the mix was an exhibit of original artworks from members of Fida (Fashion Illustration and Design Awards) inspired by the world of Halston ranging from lively portraits to renderings of his iconic perfume bottle to sketches of the designer at work in his Olympic Tower studio. Guests were invited to bid on the artwork via a silent auction.
The elevation of emerging talent in the fields of fashion and art rests at the core of Halston’s legacy with fashion illustration being an integral part. “Halston, an avid fashion illustrator in his early years, was a great believer in the craft of drawing and always supported talent such as Joe Eula, Andy Warhol and Audrey Schilt,” said Fida co-founder, Patrick Morgan. This fusion was sweetly represented when the Halston family sliced into a giant heart shaped birthday cake based on one of the exhibited artworks.
An ever-young array of Halstonettes brought timeless glamor to the proceedings in the august surroundings of the members-only National Arts Club located in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park. An overriding feeling of camaraderie among old friends permeated as photographers, artists, stylists and journalists who had all collaborated with Halston shared stories of their first meeting with the designer, his work ethic, and that infamous fashion showdown of 1973, the Battle of Versailles. The historic show pitted American and French designers against each other in a standoff for the ages that pronounced the American designers victorious. To the rapt NAC audience model Pat Cleveland brought it to life with her exuberant recount of coaxing Liza Minelli onstage from a bout of stage fright and plucking feathers as souvenirs from Josephine Baker’s already skimpy outfit. A final burst of laughter greeted her mic drop signoff: “Ooh la la, we had a good time!”
The new generation of designers in attendance were surely seduced by this firsthand glimpse into a New York fashion industry that no longer exists but which will continue to inspire their vision for the future. During the students' research into the Halston archives, they were struck by how contemporary the garments appeared. Said Steven Stipelman, professor at Fashion Institute of Technology, “Some comments were ‘they look as if they just came off the runway’ or ‘I could not believe they were designed in the 70s, they look so modern.’”
The three winners of the first FIT Halston Challenge received scholarships of 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000 dollars respectively and the grand prize winner an internship at Ralph Rucci and the opportunity to have their fashion illustrations published in FIDA: The Fashion Arts and Illustration Magazine. The overall winner, Blake Dewitt, created a bold halter jumpsuit which would have perfectly suited Bianca Jagger or Diana Ross as they spun on the dance floor while a cigarette-smoking Halston looked on approvingly. Students Enoch Kim and Yuri Ikegaya finished second and third, respectively.
This event was just the first in a series, with the next Halston Challenge scheduled for the fall at Miami’s Instituto Marangoni to coincide with Miami Beach-Art Basel. It will then travel nationwide and abroad.