If you can overlook writer/director Whitney Sudler-Smith’s unnecessary and self-indulgent intrusiveness, his doc “Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston” is informative, enjoyable and respectful of its topic. Smith’s search includes marvelous period film footage. His interviews with such high profile subjects as (Halston muse) Liza Minnelli, right-wing socialite and impresario Georgette Mosbacher, designers Diane Von Furstenberg, Anjelica Huston, Billy Joel and others provide the fabric as well as the stitching.
The legendary Halston (born Roy Halston Frowick) was one of the greatest fashion designers of the fashion-frenzied 1970s, and his legacy continues. With matinee idol looks and glamour and influence to spare, Halston lived large. He was the kid from the Midwest with whom celebrities wanted to hang out.
A celebrated representative of the excesses of the ’70s and ’80s, visionary Halston is credited with many fashion innovations. Ultrasuede, for instance, was a polyester fiber made in Japan that allowed him to marry practicality with luxury. He developed ready-to-wear lines at both Bergdorf-Goodman and JC Penney and opened the first modern couture establishment in America. He is credited with bringing minimalism to fashion. He was a pioneer for (and also a victim of) licensing, as well as a trendsetter in the field of fragrances.
Equally as legendary as his design sense was Halston’s love of nightlife. A regular habitué of Studio 54, Halston could count himself among Andy Warhol’s entourage. The dinner parties he threw in his stunning Manhattan home also are the stuff of legends. Halston was the king of New York when hedonism was chic.
Unfortunately, Halston was also the king of bad decisions. High on that list was his relationship with artist Victor Hugo. Considered key in Halston’s downfall, Hugo ranks with Minnelli as one of the more colorful personalities in the late designer’s life.
Even though Halston died of AIDS complications at 57, his signature lives on. Anyone interested in learning more about the designer and his contributions to culture will enjoy “Ultrasuede.” DVD bonus features include a deleted scene, an interview with Smith and more.