From documentary to drama, the lives of the great fashion designers have become a favourite subject for filmmakers over the last decade. This year, director Daniel Minahan has given us a compressed five-episode life of Halston that has drawn wildly mixed reviews.
It follows on from the Halston documentary by Frédéric Tcheng in 2019. Tcheng has also documented the lives of Valentino and Diana Vreeland and, most brilliantly of all, Raf Simons at Dior in Dior and I (2014).
So, what to make of Minahan’s mini-series? For the fashion lover, it is full of many treats and delights to unpick. In her book, The Great Fashion Designers, fashion author Brenda Polan called Halston “the minimalist’s minimalist”, highlighting how he pared down the over-accessorised 1960s into simple silhouettes in the most luxurious of fabrics.
The mini-series is overrun with orchids and full of sharp, witty one-liners, delivered in the most affected of accents by the brilliant Ewan McGregor as Roy Halston. It portrays the designer as a troubled genius with a superiority complex. A central narrative thread explores the tension between creative and commercial that runs through the lives of most high-end designers. It’s also a campy, exuberant celebration of the rise of American fashion and the Studio 54 era. In sum, Halston on Netflix achieves the great balance of toeing the line between historical accuracy and entertainment.