LOS ANGELES — Halston was America’s first celebrity designer, creator of Jackie O’s famous pillbox hat and a hard-partying denizen of Studio 54. He was also one of the first fashion figures to license his name, an experiment that failed miserably at the time but paved the way for the democratization of fashion as we know it today.
And now the latest iteration of his design legacy, the contemporary brand Halston Heritage, has a new home.
The Los Angeles-based Halston Heritage opened its West Coast flagship in the Beverly Center on April 19, three weeks after opening its first store, on Madison Avenue in New York City. Although the brand has been selling at department stores and boutiques for several seasons, the new stores bring life and context to the vision of Halston Chairman and Chief Executive Ben Malka for the first time. Malka, the former president of BCBG Max Azria, took over Halston in 2011, pumping several million dollars of his own into the brand. And he couldn’t be prouder of the store located on Level 6 of the mall. “I’ve walked it a thousand times in my head,” he said, taking me on a tour of the space.
Halston died in 1990, and numerous people have tried to revive the brand, including designers Randolph Duke, Bradley Bayou and Kevan Hall. In 2007, the name was bought by filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, who tried the celebrity angle, appointing Sarah Jessica Parker as creative director — an experiment that lasted for only a few months.
Weinstein is no longer involved. And this time, Malka is going a different route, emphasizing the product over the people creating it, and that includes Halston himself.
Inside the store, you won’t find a single portrait of the designer, whose heyday was the 1960s and ‘70s (“That would be cheesy,” Malka said). But you will find more subtle nods to the master of sexy minimalism, who created Ultrasuede shirtwaist dresses, six-ply cashmere turtleneck sweaters and jersey halter gowns that have influenced everyone from Michael Kors to Celine’s Phoebe Philo.
The glass facade features an “H” within an “H” graphic derived from the original Halston logo. Inside, mannequins staged on a platform are meant to evoke the theatricality for which Halston’s models were known. Other design elements of the store’s interior were inspired by Halston’s New York apartment, including the architectural-looking, amber-and-gray shelving displaying handbags and the floating staircase erected to showcase the new footwear collection. (Malka’s wife, Anita Jansens-Malka, is in charge of accessory design.)
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