A friend who studied fashion design couldn’t stop raving about “Halston” on Netflix. Since we share similar tastes when it comes to binge watching options, I decided to check it out.
Boy oh boy, was he right on the money.
This five part series, which is based on the life of Roy Halston Frowick, who rose to international fame as Halston in the 1970s, is brilliantly executed.
The hook for me is Ewan McGregor. Now this is an actor who has unfailingly blown me away with his performances over the decades.
His choices in movie as well as TV roles have been nothing short of brave, at times.
He isn’t about playing it safe. If anything, the more challenging and conflicted the character, the more appealing the part is to him.
And, in watching him channel the spirit of the iconic fashion designer – and I have to point out he wasn’t au fait with this legend in the fashion world when he agreed to the part – I’m left in complete awe.
When you are dealing with a genius mind like Halston, it goes without saying that there are many layers to him.
McGregor channels his spellbinding attributes of creativity, flamboyance, charm, confidence and ballsiness as well as his imperfections: short temper, aloofness, vanity and bouts of abrasiveness.
The series opens with a shot of a little boy who makes this jaw-droppingly stunning hat for his mother, who is a victim of spousal abuse.
And then the frame cuts across to Halston, who achieved immense success as a hat designer. He then became the head milliner at Bergdorf Goodman, a high-end department store in New York City.
His name was on everyone's lips after Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy wore a design by him to President John F Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.
With fashion trends continuously evolving, Jackie then created a new fad where she stopped wearing hats.
This became a growing concern for the department store.
Halston, on the other hand, wasn’t as easily ruffled. And his response, “F**k Jackie Kennedy”, summed it up.
He decided he was going to take a page out of Ralph Lifshitz’s (better known as Ralph Lauren’s) book and reinvent himself and branch out as a designer.
After being given the green-light to launch a range of dresses for women, he dived into creating it with gusto.
But the unveiling of his creations didn’t garner the reaction he anticipated. In Halston’s words, it was “an unmitigated disaster – a total flop”.
In fact, the failure spurred him on.
He decided to branch out on his own. He wanted to create a complete “couture experience” for women. And he rallied up a motley crew of creatives.
And he finds his muses, which includes Liza Minnelli (Krysta Rodriguez).
Her cup-is-always-half-full-approach to life resonates deeply with him.
After their first meeting where he unashamedly lets her know that she could do with a new look, and she agreed, she ended up commiserating with him.
She said: “We both living under the shadow of something. I don’t want to just be Judy Garland’s daughter…”
Despite a slate of setbacks, Halston errs on the side of unrestrained optimism.
Halston isn’t one to back away from challenges in his personal and professional life. The scene where he picks up Ed Austin (Sullivan Jones) by buying him an amaretto stone sour, which was returned, is a testament to his skills of persuasion.
Halston goes after what he wants and doesn’t give up until he gets it.
He was determined to be the one to change American fashion. Little did he realise how prophetic his words would be.
“Halston” is a compelling watch of a remarkable figure. Aside from the marvellous throwback to a different era, everything from the wardrobe to the direction is handled with finesse and commendable attention to detail.
Admittedly, after the casting, the scripting, which serves up plenty of sarcasm, is also a win for me.
And McGregor, who is such a marvel as Halston, clearly has this role all sewn up. Kudos to him.
“Halston” is currently streaming on Netflix.