Childhood: Roy Halston Frowick was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the second son of a Norwegian-American accountant with a passion for inventing. Roy developed an interest in sewing from his mother. As an adolescent he began creating hats and embellishing outfits for his mother and sister. He graduated from Bosse High School in Evansville, Indiana in 1950 and then attended Indiana University for one semester. After the family moved to Chicago in 1952, he enrolled in a night course at the Chicago Art Institute and worked as a window dresser.
Friends & Relationships: Halston was once in a relationship with the celebrity hair stylist André Basil.In the early 1970s Halston became enamored of a Colombian window dresser named Victor Hugo. Through Hugo he met and befriended his perfect art-world counterpart, Andy Warhol.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Halston threw himself whole-heartedly into a celebrity lifestyle and was frequently featured in the gossip columns. During this period, he was seen partying with his friend Liza Minnelli at the gay holiday resort Fire Island. Patricia Mears reports that he took full advantage of the drugs that were available at the nightclubs he frequented.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Halston was known not only for his fashions, but also for his participation in New York's nightlife. He was one of the faces of the infamous New York nightclub Studio 54. One of the most famous events in the decadent history of Studio 54 was Halston's birthday party for Bianca Jagger in 1977.
Work: Frowick's first big break came when the Chicago Daily News ran a brief story on his fashionable hats. In 1957 he opened his first shop, the Boulevard Salon, on Michigan Avenue. It was at this point that he began to use his middle name as his professional moniker.
With the help of a lover twenty-five years his senior, celebrity hair stylist André Basil, Halston further developed his career by moving to New York later in 1957. Basil introduced Halston to milliner Lilly Daché, who offered him a job. Within a year he had been named co-designer at Daché, become the new best friend of several fashion editors and publishers, and left Daché's studio to become head milliner for department store Bergdorf Goodman.
When Jacqueline Kennedy attended her husband's inauguration as President of the United States in January of 1961, she was dressed in a jacket by Oleg Cassini and a pill-box hat by Halston. Halston's unadorned and simple creation was copied by women across the world.
Simplicity was the trademark of Halston's creations. By the mid-1970s ethnic peasant looks were being created by all the European designers, but Halston, who hated the fussiness and non-American qualities of such designs, bucked this trend. At a 1973 fashion show at Versailles, where American designers were invited to showcase their work alongside top French designers, Halston stunned the fashion world by the awesome purity of his dresses. His designs were worn by Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Anjelica Huston, Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley, and Elizabeth Taylor, setting a style that would be closely associated with the international jet set of the era.
As "the first designer to realize the potential of licensing himself," his influence went beyond style to reshape the business of fashion. Through his licensing agreement with JC Penney, his designs were accessible to women at a variety of income levels. Although this practice is not uncommon today, it was a controversial move at the time.
The Halston label became part of Norton Simon Industries in 1973. In 1975 he added menswear and perfume to his empire. The perfume was known simply as "Halston" and came in a bean-shaped bottle designed by Elsa Peretti and was the second biggest selling perfume of all time.
Halston was very influential in airline uniform designs. His designs were featured on now defunct carrier Braniff. His designs were more muted than the airline's past uniform designs by Emilio Pucci. He made interchangeable separates in shades of bone, tan, taupe, and brown. He also designed the seat covers that were added on the aircraft and known as the "Ultra look".
Despite his achievements, his increasing drug use and failure to meet deadlines (he was reluctant to hire junior designers to design licensed products) undermined his success. In October 1984 he was fired from his own company and lost the right to design and sell clothes under his own name.
His career shattered and his health failing, Halston retired from the fashion world. In Simply Halston, Steven Gaines notes that "Halston would live the rest of his life in self-imposed exile, an Elba of his own creation. The man who was only as good as the people he dressed ended up not dressing anyone."
Halston was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. He died of AIDS-related lung cancer in San Francisco, California on March 26, 1990.
Greatest Achievement: According to Salon.com, Halston was the first international fashion superstar and possibly the best designer America has ever had. He is recognised as one of the most successful fashion entrepreneurs in history. He was nominated for Broadway's 1978 Tony Award as Best Costume Designer for "The Act."