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Who was Halston and when and how did he die?

A new Netflix series explores the life and influence of legendary fashion designer Roy Halston, who is credited with creating the 1970s' disco aesthetic.

A new Netflix series explores the life and influence of legendary fashion designer Roy Halston, who is credited with creating the 1980s disco aesthetic.
Mariette Pathy AllenGetty Images

A new Netflix limited series casts a light on the life of fashion designer Roy Halston, who was responsible for shifting the conventions of the industry in the late 1960s and 70s.

The show sees Ewan McGregor star as the eponymous lead and includes appearances from a whole host of well-known characters from the time. The show is produced by Ryan Murphy, who also created Pose, The Assassination of Gianni Versace and American Horror Story.

The series first aired on 14 May 2021 and already the astonishing life of one of America’s most influential designers has sent viewers scrambling for more information about Halston’s enigmatic life and untimely death.

Who was Roy Halston?

Roy Halston Frowick was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1932 and became one of the most famous and influential designers of the 20th century, known both for the iconic ‘disco era’ styling and his own lavish lifestyle.

He was frequently photographed with his ever-changing entourage of celebrity friends and models in the New York party scene, counting the likes of Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Elsa Peretti and Truman Capote as close friends. He frequented the famous Studio 54 nightclub and reportedly struggled with drug addiction for much of his adult life, something that the show does not shy away from.

In terms of his impact on the fashion industry, Halston has few equals in American history and his influence can still be seen to this day. As opposed to the more relaxed look of the hippy movement that characterised 1960s fashion, Halston was eager to create sleeker, modern designs that would come to characterise the disco era.

His signature style was also reflective of societal changes that allowed greater expression for women, something Halston explicitly included in his design process. In 1977 he told Women’s Wear Daily: “One has to think of every American wardrobe need from the with-it young girls with style to the woman that leads a corporate structure lifestyle.

"That means I have to have a short dinner look, a gala look, something for entertaining at home and practical clothes that adapt to climate change.”

How did Halston die?

Despite his fame and fortune during the 1970s, the 1980s would prove to be a tough time for Halston and his iconic brand after an ill-fated deal in 1983 to produce a more cost-effective line with high street store J.C Penney. The association with a less desirable brand cost Halston dearly and the brand’s main line was dropped from a number of key stores.

By 1984 Roy Halston was fired from his own brand and would spend much of the remaining six years of his life attempting to regain control of the fashion house that he founded. However by this point the excesses of his life were beginning to catch up with his and he moved to San Francisco to be cared for by relatives. On 26 March 1990 he died of Kaposi ’s sarcoma, a form of AIDS-related cancer, at the age of 57.


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