So the latest buzzy series for serious fashion heads on Netflix is all about Halston, a mega-designer who reached his career peak in the 70’s and 80’s, but experienced a precipitous fall from grace due to a series of bad decisions that ultimately led to an early death and tarnished legacy (Netflix put it so much more eloquently, “His name built an empire. His style defined an era. American fashion designer Halston skyrockets to fame before his life starts to spin out of control.“).
The Mid Westerner turned chain smoking, coke sniffing fashion icon was the Tom Ford of his era. His Ultra Suede jackets revolutionized fashion, his endorsement deals set the precedent for designer collaborations of today, he was a huge champion of diversity with his Halstonettes, and his elegantly glamourous aesthetic was simply unmatched. While this is the second or third documentary/series/movie I’ve seen about the late, great designer, this series, with Halston played by Ewan McGregor, cinematically and vibrantly captures the utterly chic luxury that Halston’s career seemed to embody.
The fashion world’s obsession with this icon surely stems from the bittersweet realization that Halston had it all–and lost it by his own design. Everything became too much: too much cocaine, too many screaming fits, and an inflated ego. Halston could have been a YSL, Chanel or Balenciaga (which he quotes many times in the series), but instead he is just a precautionary tale of what not to do when you have the world at your fingertips.
Behold, 5 lessons I learned:
- Say No to Drugs
In the beginning of the series, Halston chides one of his workers for having a drug habit, intimating that junkies had no place at his company. By the end of the series, Halston and team were running through a two week supply of cocaine in a day. As Rick James said, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug!” It must be! However, when you’re not in your right mind, you make bad decisions, mix with the wrong people, you might even lose your pants–or your name–if you are not thinking clearly. We all know this, folks, but I’ll say it again: Say No to Drugs. It never, ever ends well.
2. Watch the Company You Keep
While presumably under the influence, Halston fell in love/lust with a young man named Victor Hugo, who ultimately blackmailed Halston for $1 million dollars, exposing his private business to the tabloids. This was one of those shake my head situations. Halston, you are better than this! We were rooting for you!
At other times, Victor brought complete strangers he met in public bathrooms to Halston’s glorious house. It just was not a match, but hey, please reference the Rick James quote in point #1.
3. Be Kind and Remain Humble
I’m not sure how true to life the tirades in the script were, but it seems Halston got more than a little full of himself. He alienated many of his close friends and confidantes with his narcissistic, self absorbed attitude. He even acted a plumb fool towards the people who had invested in his business. Big No No! In the age of social media, rude behavior will be exposed, but either way: kindness and humility go far in retaining talent and friendships for the long term.
4. Read Contracts
Halston signed away his name without reading a contract. He operated off a sense of trust. And while he was compensated greatly, his contract did not account for a time when he wanted to exit his business or switch gears. His creative baby was left in the hands of people who only wanted to ring it like a lemon for all of its money juice. Folks, have a lawyer read over all your contracts before signing on the dotted line!
5. Make Good Business Decisions
Halston missed out on what seemed like major opportunities (for example to create signature jeans). I see this all the time with creatives where they want to create and not focus on the business. However, Art & Commerce go hand in hand. And if you have investors who have poured themselves into your business, compromise to give them what they want so that they can recoup (within reason).
All in All, Halston’s stamp on the American fashion industry is undeniable. And despite his career foibles, his legacy is certainly intact for all his wonderful accolades, while we can thank him for his mistakes as we are able to learn from them and avoid them today.
What did you think about Halston on Netflix? Any take aways?
Love & Light,
Images: Netflix via @HalstononNetflix
Images used for commentary, no infringement intended!