January 28, 2012

Movie Review: "Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston"

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On Thursday night, LIM College (where I attended) held a screening of the new film about fashion designer Halston. Director Whitney Sudler-Smith went out to search the legend who was known for his extravagant dinner parties and hitting up Studio 54 with some of the biggest names. However, what he found was a few loyal friends who wanted to keep the spirit of Halston alive.

He interviewed former friends such as Liza Minelli, Pat Cleveland and Anjelica Houston who also modeled for him. I had no idea he grew up in a small Midwest town. He lived and partied hard. The movie featured rare video of him during interviews and of his runway shows frequently held at his office in the Olympic Towers.

He said "you're only as good as the people you dress" and he dressed all the beautiful people. He dressed Jackie O for JFK's inauguration as well as Liza.

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Designer Ralph Rucci said that American designers owe a lot to Halston since he paved the way. Never had their been a high-end American designer before. An amazing story was an event that aptly titled the "Battle of Versailles." France ruled the couture runways. They invited 5 American designers to come show in Versailles. While the French designers had over-the-top theatrical shows, the Americans brought no props. At the end, the audience was standing and cheering for the Americans. It was a good ol' fashion face-off.

Another way he innovated the fashion game was building relations with China. It is hard to imagine a time when we were not producing clothes in China but there was and it took a lot to sell them on the idea. Halston went over on an extravagant trip with his Halstonettes. It was a success and they were able to use this new ultrasuede fabric that felt like suede but didn't require the expensive upkeep. You could throw it in the wash! His ultrasuede wrap dress was the fastest selling dress ever.

He was also ahead of his time by collaborating with JcPenney to create a lower end line for the masses. Nowadays we can't think of any designers who haven't collaborated with H&M or Target. Yet, back in the 80's it was highly frowned upon and unfortunately it tainted the Halston name.

He was an extravagant man who was known for his dinner parties where guests included Bianca Jagger, Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol. He also partied it up at Studio 54 with Diane von Furstenberg. Many of the people asked about the parties during their interviews declined to comment but the smirks on their face gave away that the rumors were true and they were parties they'll never forget.

After the movie there was a panel discussion with the director, former Halstonette Pat Cleveland and stylist Phillip Bloch who was a bus boy at Studio 54. Pat was so wonderful, I loved her energy. They said the biggest lesson they learned from him was to live life and dream. He broke the mold in so many ways for designers. As many times as they try to bring back the Halston label, it has been difficult because no one can create and design like he did. He sadly passed away from AIDS in 1990 at the young age of 57.

How will you remember Halston?


  1. It was such a wonderful night & the film was so interesting - I've learned so much about Halston. And it was nice seeing you again! :)

  2. Really nice summary. I am glad that Pat cleveland was there. For many black women in the fashion industry and out, she is a legend. Philip Bloch is the man. Will be probably running into him next month. Maybe it would have been nice for the Elle France's writer to speak to miss cleveland about fashion and blacks. Well done. http://www.fashionmechic.com/

  3. Lovinggg this piece :)


  4. I've been wanting to watch this movie and now I want to even more!



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