PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston October 2022

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Page 25 of 135

gushed throughout their three- hour call that it felt like talking to the great designer himself. "It was very touching," Downing says. "Ralph Rucci believes 100 percent that Halston chose me. Pat Cleveland, who I've known for some time and have worked with for years, said the same thing: Ken, he chose you." Halston may be pulling strings from the heavens, but Downing knows his own mind. "I'm very excited to take on a legacy brand and re-establish its DNA, but it's not going to be a retro rehash from the past," he says. "Times have changed, how women dress has changed. Women have changed physiologically. You will see a definite strong sense of the DNA, but it will be the spirit of what Halston would do if he were still designing." R oy Halston Frowick — Halston — was America's first superstar designer in the 1970s, creating sleek and wearable clothes for clients such as Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger, and Elizabeth Taylor. Among his iconic designs were simple shirtwaist dresses in washable Ultrasuede, silk halter dresses, and exquisitely draped caftans. "His clothes truly liberated women at a time when clothes were very stiff and tailored," Downing says. "He made clothes women could move in freely." As creative director, Downing will be designing new collections that embrace that spirit of liberation — including caftans "with very cool updates" — along with the intrinsic glamour Halston imbued in all his clothes, no matter how casual. Halston's dress styles worked for a range of women and body types, an ethos Downing plans to continue. "People will be happy to know that it will not only be a collection for many generations but also many different sizes," he says. Halston was known for collaborating with artists such as Andy Warhol and Elsa Peretti, and Downing is already in discussions with top artists about future collaborations for the brand. Downing's first complete collection debuts fall 2023. "There are also new levels of the business we anticipate introducing, including a men's collection. It will be much more of a languid, gender-blended idea and, depending on the piece, will be fit to men and to women," says Downing, who is gleaning inspiration from Halston's personal wardrobe, including a draped pant with no side seams that Halston designed for himself. "Halston's patterns were amazing — he often just draped with a single piece of fabric," he says. It's a technique that Downing hopes to return to, so he's spending a lot of time researching the Halston archives at FIT in NYC. Made-to-measure is being resurrected at Halston after a long hiatus — likely timed with a future introduction of red- carpet designs for celebrities, whose stylists have already approached Downing. "You should also anticipate a home collection," he says. "Halston had that amazing Paul Rudolph-designed house (now owned by Tom Ford) that was so ahead of its time, and given how much I love home, I couldn't have a brilliant label like this and not have a home collection." Meanwhile, Downing is wearing a lot of hats, including presenting the brand on HSN, where Halston has had a longtime presence, and working on new billboard campaigns in Times Square, along with localized campaigns in cities across the country. "Halston's ads were famous, with him surrounded by his Halstonettes," Downing says. "You'll probably see Pat Cleveland and her daughter Anna brought back into the fold, but I'm also working on a new generation of Halstonettes." Downing's goal is to reintroduce the label to Halston's longtime fans but also to a new generation who may only know about him through the Netflix biographical drama Halston, which came out in 2021. "I want to turn it into a coveted brand people want to wear," he says. "We'll pay attention to Mr. Halston, but we're going to charge forward into the new world. Everyone says he's looking down on me to make sure it goes well … I feel it; I just don't feel intimidated by it." Halston with model Karen Bjornson, 1970s Anjelica Huston being fitted in a Halston evening dress, 1970s Ken Downing in his new office at Halston in NYC COURTESY HALSTON ARCHIVES FROM THE BOOK HALSTON (PHAIDON) (Continued from page 22) 24

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