The fashion documentary is a subgenre of a larger wave of films about fashion that have proliferated in recent years, including biopics such as Coco Before Chanel (Anne Fontaine, 2009) and Saint Laurent (Bertrand Bonello, 2014), documentaries such as Lagerfeld Confidential (Rodolphe Marconi, 2007) and The September Issue (R.J. Cutler, 2009), and, in a similar vein, the 2018 Netflix true crime series The Assassination of Gianni Versace.
Among these – but in a class of its own – is Dior and I (2014), Frédéric Tcheng’s first film as solo director (he co-directed the 2011 documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel), which follows newly appointed creative director at Dior Raf Simons as he prepares for his début season. Tcheng’s second film as director, entitled simply Halston, follows the rise and fall of America’s biggest fashion house and the life and death of the man behind it.
Halston (born Roy Halston Frowick) began his career as a milliner in Chicago. His growing reputation saw him appointed head milliner at the prestigious Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan; however, he came to national attention after designing the pillbox hat worn by Jackie Kennedy to John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. From there, Halston moved to designing clothes and is credited with changing the shape of women’s clothing. His works included the now-iconic Ultrasuede shirt dress, although he also designed uniforms for Avis Car Rental and Braniff Airways. All this is background for Tcheng’s documentary, which is less interested in how Halston rose to fame than in how certain forces – including himself – conspired to bring him down.