What REALLY went wrong at Halston?

04 August 2011

Sarah Jessica Parker, Harvey Weinstein, Marios Schwab, even Rachel Zoe AND Tamara Mellon were all involved in the most recent era of the reconstituted ‘70’s brand Halston. Now they have all left and the future of the house is by no means certain. They are all phenomenally successful A –listers in their own fields – and although SJP and Harvey Weinstein are from the mileu of Hollywood, SJP has form at fronting lines for the GAP and US chain Bitten AND Harvey Weinstein is boss of, and married to the designer of brilliant red carpet dream factory, Marchesa - Georgina Chapman. With this amount of fashion heavyweights, investment and publicity, what really went on? Might the house of Halston really be cursed?

The New York Observer wasn’t satisfied with the quotes from a SJP interview in US Vogue OR with the platitudes and cover-overs from the brands own press releases, so it conducted an in-depth investigation itself. This, sadly (because we’re seriously all ears on this topic) was quite hampered by the fact that none of the above protagonists were prepared to speak to them, due to the fact that they had all signed non-disclosure agreements on the subject.

However, they talked to a few ‘sources’ who remained nameless about their time working for the brand, alongside either Sarah Jessica or the board of directors. They have come up with a few theories as to why it turned from PR triumph to financial disaster in the end.

1 SJP carried on with being a full time movie star at the same time, and didn’t really “work” at Halston; they quote a source from the company, who said SJP ‘had genuine passion for her work, but you can’t do both things—be a president of a clothing company and be an actress. She needed to focus on it. She didn’t have the management skills or the understanding of keeping price-points where they needed to be.’

back in the day - Liza Minelli with Halston

2 SJP did work very hard indeed, but the trouble was, her salary was so huge, it didn’t matter how many lovely dresses they sold, they still couldn’t break even. ‘Halston Heritage and Halston didn’t work. Not because of a lack of desire—Bonnie and Sarah and Hilco all wanted it to work—but they put more money into cream and cherries and not in the meat and potatoes. It took a lot a lot of money to start up that collection, most of which was spent on [Ms. Parker]. They should have licensed out handbags and shoes and all that! They didn’t.’ said the source.

3 All the designers worked hard but there were so many people on the board keen to have a hand in everything, that the creative were not free to do their best and it was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth; ‘Everyone thinks they can do fashion,’ the former Halston employee noted. ‘But working with pattern makers, fabrics and the nuts and bolts of a company is not easy. We had people who were micromanaging on stuff they knew nothing about. There were too many cooks in the kitchen.’

The source added, ‘The company had a huge board with huge egos and every little thing went through everyone. The designs were second-, third- or fourth-guessed by people who never worked in fashion.’

And with Liz Taylor

Yikes! There are two films about the original Halston,Roy Halston Frowick, in the pipeline, a documentary, Ultrasuede, which was completed a while back and will be released in the USA before the end of the year, and a biopic, with Alec Baldwin, which has not yet been made. Looks like there is enough intrigue and in-fighting to make another film about the current lot too! 

- Naomi Attwood


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