Who is Roy Halston Frowick? True story of fashion designer played by Ewan McGregor in new Netflix series

Roy Halston Frowick was one of the biggest names in fashion during the 1970s

Netflix’s new five-part series, Halston, was released on Friday, with fans finally getting to see Ewan McGregor in action as fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick

The show charts Halston’s ascension to the top of the fashion industry, following his rapid rise to fame and lavish lifestyle that played a part in his downfall.

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Here’s all you need to know about the designer that inspired the TV show.

The show charts Halston’s ascension to the top of the fashion industry Cr. ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/NETFLIX © 2021The show charts Halston’s ascension to the top of the fashion industry Cr. ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/NETFLIX © 2021
The show charts Halston’s ascension to the top of the fashion industry Cr. ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA/NETFLIX © 2021

Who is Roy Halston Frowick?

Roy Halston Frowick was one of the biggest fashion designers in the world during the 1970s.

More commonly known as Halston, his career took off after first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wore his pillbox hat to President John F Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

Halston began his career 20 years earlier, designing hats for Bergdorf Goodman. Through the 1970s and early 80s Halston built a fashion empire worth up to $100 million.

Halston is often described as the designer who changed the landscape of American fashion forever, whose circle of “Halsonettes”, as they were called, included 1960s iconic like Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger, Anjelica Huston and Elsa Peretti.

Halston’s designs were known for their use of flowing fabrics like silk and chiffon, with his clothing normally including more comfortable designs compared to the structured styles of the sixties.

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His deal with affordable fashion department store JC Penney has been hailed as pioneering, despite being a factor to his downfall. The business deal paved the way to brands like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen all creating fashion ranges for high street department stores.

The early 1980’s saw the fashion designer commit to a number of bad business deals, whilst keeping up a lavish spending habit, and continuing to party excessively.

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His career would come to a standstill in 1983, with his own company firing him after a host of salacious headlines and missed deadlines.

The fashion brand has changed ownership several times since Halston’s death, although it has maintained the name Halston.

Disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein was among several people to partner with Hilco Consumer Capital to relaunch the brand in 2006. Weinstein co left Halston five years later.

Sarah Jessica Parker also had a stint as Halston’s creative director during the mid-2000s, wearing a number of the brand’s dresses in the film Sex and the City 2.

How did Halston die?

Halston died of Kaposi’s sarcoma, an AIDS-defining illness, in March 1990.

The designer had tested positive for HIV two years before, a time when the disease was relatively new and the epidemic was gripping the US.

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Halston: release date, trailer and cast of Netflix series starring Ewan McGregor

In a statement shortly after his death, Halston’s brother said the family “mourns the loss of a magnificent and deeply respected brother and friend.” The statement added: “We thank all those from around the world who have been communicating thoughtful wishes to him. America has lost a true patriot and its greatest designer, one of the greatest designers in the world.”

At the time of Halston’s death, Liza Minnelli said: “I’m very, very saddened by this loss. I just lost my best friend.” Calvin Klein later called him the “greatest American fashion designer who ever lived”.

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How accurate is Halston?

Ryan Murphy’s Halston is based on Steven Gaines’ acclaimed 1991 book ‘Simply Halston’.

Despite the series being a fictionalised depiction of the designer’s life, the series does feature a number of true events that happened in Halston’s life.

One such moment is the Battle of Versailles, where French and American designers displayed their collections at the French palace in 1973. The show depicts the moment at the end of Halston’s collection where the audience jumped to their feet in excitement. According to Liza Minnelli in the 2019 documentary Halston, this is true, with the singer saying: “They went bananas.”

The TV series accurately portrays Halston’s lavish lifestyle including a recreation of his home on East 63rd Street in New York. The home featured a red carpeted, mirror walled office with floor to ceiling windows.

What is Halston about?

Halston is a new five-part mini series focussing on the legendary fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick. The show will focus on his rise to fame in 1970’s New York, and explore his relationship with his new found influence in the fashion world.

The drama series is produced by Ryan Murphy, who was behind the recent Netflix hits Hollywood, American Horror Story and the American Crime Story anthology series.

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The official synopsis reads: "The limited series Halston follows the legendary fashion designer, as he leverages his single, invented name into a worldwide fashion empire that's synonymous with luxury, sex, status and fame, literally defining the era he lives in, 1970s and '80s New York — until a hostile takeover forces him to battle for control of his most precious asset… the name Halston itself.".