Models show off designs from the new H Halston collection, launching Sept. 6. (Photo: Stephanie Eichman)
“Welcome to my home!” Cameron Silver jokes as he ushers me into a sleek, modernist townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The home was designed by renowned architect Paul Rudolph, and it once belonged to Roy Halston Frowick — a man better known as simply Halston. Halston rose to international fame as a fashion designer, and he all but invented American glamour in the 1970s with his slinky, Studio 54-ready dresses and chic, minimalist knit separates. Today, the townhouse (which, incidentally, is currently on the market for a cool $28 million) is brimming with artifacts of the designer’s fabulous life: black-and-white party photos of friends like Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli, portraits by pop artist and colleague Andy Warhol, a gleaming white midcentury-modern couch that is almost too beautiful to sit on. “People think that Halston was this party boy, but he was a bit of a homebody,” says Silver as he shows off a few pieces from his first collection for the relaunched H Halston. “But wouldn’t you want to stay at home if you lived here?”
Silver is the latest director tasked with remaking Halston for the modern age, and his first collection of easy knits, layered mesh-like cocktail dresses, and tough motorcycle jackets launches exclusively at Lord & Taylor in the U.S. and Hudson’s Bay in Canada on Sept. 6. The 47-year-old is uniquely qualified to helm the beloved brand. As the founder of the Los Angeles vintage mecca Decades, Silver has an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history and understanding of Halston’s unique place in it. He’s also precisely attuned to the contemporary woman’s needs — proven by his stylish, fiercely loyal Decades clientele and his work at the more-populist QVC. That means that Silver’s H Halston is elegant and cool and easy to wear — as well as affordable, with prices ranging from about $39 for a T-shirt to $150 for a jacket. And best of all, new styles will come in every single week, with accessories like shoes and bags arriving in mid-September. We spoke with Silver about his background, his experience designing for such an iconic brand, and what Halston means in the 21st century.
Designer Cameron Silver is remaking Halston for the 21st century. (Photo: Stephanie Eichman)
Yahoo Style: You have a vintage store, you do a lot of styling and consultations, but this is your first major design gig. What attracted you to H Halston?
Cameron Silver: Well, I’ve been head-hunted for projects many times, and the one thing I always tell people is the only thing that would really interest me would be Halston. And the opportunity to work with Lord & Taylor — Lord & Taylor is the iconic original luxury retailer. Halston is the first American luxury brand. So the fact that we can fuse these things together, and at the same time offer something new and accessible every week, I was like, OK, I’ll move from Los Angeles and couch surf in New York for a while.
Do you remember your first encounter with Halston?
When I was 5 or 6 years old, I realized the power of having some style, and by 9 I was well aware of who Halston was. I was precocious and an only child, and my parents liked fashion. My father definitely wore the fragrance, because I remember the bottle. But I liked the aesthetic, and 20 years later when I opened Decades, it was really like the kind of barometer I used for good taste for bringing things into the store.
Halston, the designer who “gave American fashion a global name,” shown here in 1971 with jewelry designer Elsa Peretti and model. (Photo: Getty Images)
What was it about Halston that so resonated with you, and continues to resonate?
I always say effortless elegance — that’s what it’s about. It’s also about the birth of American fashion having a global audience. I narrated a documentary called Versailles ’73, which is [about a] really amazing moment when five American designers, including Halston, took to Versailles to compete against five French designers, like YSL, Dior, Givenchy. Halston was the designer who not only gave American fashion a global name, but he was also extremely important in breaking the color barrier of fashion. His muses were of all colors and all sizes. In the ’70s, his model and muse was Pat Ast, who was a plus-sized model. I just think he represents the American breaking through in so many regards.
It must be challenging taking on this brand that’s so iconic — how did you update it for the 21st century?
The main thing is, it’s weekly: there’s 52 collections a year. So it really is a response to how the modern customer shops. I don’t want to call it fast-fashion, but the beauty of it is that every week you’ll go to Lord & Taylor, and there is a new group [of items]. It’s a lot different from going to a Zara or an H&M: It’s clothes my friends would wear. Like, my fancy friends would wear these clothes. And my less fancy friends would wear these clothes.
What do you want Halston to mean in 2016?
I think a lot of times people get caught up in the Studio 54 thing. Halston dressed women from day to evening — they would go to Halston and get an entire wardrobe, a trousseau. When Liza Minnelli would go on tour, she’d have her Louis Vuitton trunks dropped off and he’d create an entire wardrobe for her. So that’s what I really wanted to do: create those essential pieces but give them that Halston twist. Obviously we play around with those iconic moments like asymmetry and chiffon and knits. Not only to continue that tradition, but also to tell the story of this man who truly changed the way that women dress.