Netflix’s HALSTON : Drama, Drugs and Decolletage.

Netflix's Halston review

Halston was truly one of the most significant fashion designers of all time. His stunning skin-baring gowns designed for women with no breasts and long legs remained unmatched in terms of iconic silhouettes. He singlehandedly brought Ultrasuede to the world of fashion with his #704 shirtwaist dress and sensually draped the likes of every top ’70s model and socialite in halter gowns and chiffon dresses. Lauren Hutton and Jerry Hall. Bianca Jagger and Angelica Huston. Wet glossy lips and tight chignons. He made the runways look like photos by Helmut Newton and Francesco Scavullo. And his friendships with Liza, Warhol, Martha Graham and more are legendary.

A Review of Netflix’s Halston

That said, Netflix’s Halston, a limited series which debuted last night, is absolute trash. But thoroughly watchable trash.

Fashion designer Roy Halston dressing Angelica Huston
Fashion designer Roy Halston dressing Angelica Huston

Netflix’s Halston is 5 episodes of highly watchable and entertaining TV, but it really is garbage. The bingeable new series lacks accuracy and is thin on the the designer’s contributions to fashion, but is filled with drama, drugs and décolletage.

ewan as halston with entourage
Ewan McGregor as Halston, Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minelli and far left, David Pittu as Joe Eula; far right, Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti

It’s typical Ryan Murphy – salacious and verging on camp. Not a true documentary or biography of Halston, but the very reason why the term “Biopic” exists. Hardly a historical look at the designer’s life (who began his career as a milliner), the limited series is instead a bunch of his more dramatic, desperate and controversial moments in his career played-out onscreen. The rise and fall of a genius turned drug-addicted narcissist with a shit-ton of talent. Needless to say, the designer’s family has called the production “fictional” and “inaccurate”.

real halston in olympic towers office
The real Halston at his desk in the Olympic Towers during a fitting with model Karen Bjornson for his fall 1982 made to order collection advance. ph: Thomas Iannaccone/WWD

While Ewan McGregor pulls off Halston’s affected pretension, he’s just too damn short to convince us he’s the tall, good-looking, gay designer. After a few episodes of his over-the-top performance, we warn you – he will get on your nerves. Bill Pullman and Vera Farmiga are both excellent in their roles and Rory Culkin as designer Joel Schumaker should have been given a larger role. The gorgeous Rebecca Dayan is perfect as Elsa Peretti (about whom a documentary really ought to be produced) and Krysta Rodriquez plays Liza Minelli – a tough role. No one is Liza, but Liza.

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Rory Culkin plays the drug-addicted Joel Schumacher and Rebecca Dayan plays Elsa Peretti in Halston
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left: McGregor and Rodriguez as Halston and Liza in Netlfix’s Halston; right: The real duo

The clothes we do see are fabulous, but there are not enough of them. We see the birth of the famous shirt dress and a glimpse of Joel Schumacher’s hand-dyed diaphanous fabrics. But no time is given to the designer’s tailored cashmere ensembles, his jersey gowns or his innovative flying saucer dresses, wonderful suits, scarves and capes. Fortunately, WWD has an article in which many of the designers most famous styles and collections can be seen.

Huston in Halston Cashmere
Anjelica Huston models a cashmere gown with a matching hooded cape during Halston’s Resort 1972 fashion show.

We do get to learn about the launch of his fragrance, the making of the scent and its iconic bottle design by Elsa Peretti- one of the most interesting parts of the series.

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Ewan McGregor as Roy Halston and Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti in Netflix’s Halston
Elsa Peretti and Halston
Elsa Peretti and Halston attend the Fragrance Foundation’s dinner together in the Plaza Hotel in 1976. ph: Lynn Karlin

We get a blip of the designer’s Studio 54 days and relationship with Steve Rubell, but not nearly enough. Then again, you can learn more about that ‘dead body in the vent” and the raid on the famous disco in Matt Tyrnauer’s Studio 54 documentary.

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l to r: Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti, MacGregor as Halston, David Pittu as Joe Eula and Gian Franco Rodriguez as Victor Hugo in Halston

If you’re gonna watch it, don’t do so to satisfy any sort of historical of fashion curiosity. Instead watch it for the gossipy, shallow, sheer entertainment factor (and the few glances at some of the brilliant designer’s work).

Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol and Halston at Studio 54
Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol and Halston at Studio 54

Halston’s now vintage gowns endure and are worn on today’s red carpet by several celebrities. They still hold up against today’s top fashion designers.

lauren hutton Elsa Hosk both in halston
Lauren Hutton in Halston’s Chiffon gown, and over 40 years later, worn by Swedish model Elsa Hosk at Cannes

If you are a real fan of Halston’s designs (and Elsa Peretti’s work), there are other documentaries and books on Halston that are sure to satisfy you more than this.

Watch Netflix’s Halston here

images courtesy of WWD and IMDB and Getty