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Halston, Warhol: a fashionable friendship


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The late American fashion designer Halston is remembered -- and revered -- for his use of luxe fabrics, rich colors and clean silhouettes that allowed women who slipped on one of his ultrasuede shirtdresses or velvet pajama sets to feel confident, comfortable and effortlessly chic.

Those who knew him personally remember his generous nature, perfectionist mentality and way of offering suggestions.

"He never commanded people. He suggested," says his niece, Lesley Frowick.

Warhol Museum reveals renovations, new Halston exhibit

Nicholas Chambers, curator, and Lesley Frowick, niece of the designer Halston, talk about renovations and a new exhibit at the Andy Warhol Museum. (Video by Nate Guidry; 5/13/2014)

The designer gave her his personal archives and suggested that if she should ever want to write a book about him she'd have everything she'd need. She followed through and her research for the book, slated for publication in October by Rizzoli, led her to The Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side.

Because of the overlap between Halston and Warhol's personal and professional lives, the museum offered her the opportunity to co-create an exhibit spotlighting the pair's relationship and contributions to art and fashion.

The exhibit "Halston and Warhol: Silver and Suede" opens today to the public and will run through Aug. 24. It is presented by PNC Financial Services, a partner to The Warhol since 2004.

PREVIEW

Halston and Warhol:
Silver and Suede’

Where: The Andy Warhol Museum, North Side.

When: Through Aug. 24.

Events: 
7 p.m. June 13: Talk led by talk led by Vincent Fremont, former vice president of Andy Warhol Enterprises and executive manager of the Andy Warhol Studio, and Geralyn Huxley, curator of film and video.
7 p.m. Aug. 1: Discussion with Discussion with Halston's niece, Lesley Frowick, and Nicholas Chambers, the Milton Fine curator of art.

Information: www.warhol.org or 412-237-8300.

The display of Halston creations, Warhol art, ephemera, photos and video clips takes visitors from Halston's early years as a self-taught milliner in Chicago to the pinnacle of his career dressing celebrities and his devoted models, dubbed "the Halstonettes." The exhibit also features the pillbox hat he designed for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1961, an homage to Studio 54 and a set-up reminiscent of runway shows held at his midtown Manhattan office at Olympic Tower.

For Ms. Frowick, it's a walk down memory lane. The daughter of diplomat Robert H. Frowick, she remembers Halston sending her mother hats he designed and designer dresses (before he had started making his own).

"My mother was probably always the best-dressed person at the functions," she says. "Throughout his career, he was always giving his creations away."

Clothes he designed for Ms. Frowick also are on display.

"He just figured out my whole wardrobe for me," she says, particularly while she worked for him in the early 1980s. She went on to study at the International Center of Photography in New York and became a photographer.

"I was his little wing person going along with him, and he wanted me to be dressed appropriately."

During her stint with him in her early 20s, she became acquainted with his circle of star-studded friends, including Warhol. He was "quiet, funny and curious," she writes in the exhibit catalog. She recounts weekends in Montauk with Halston and Warhol, who came dressed for the beach in long sleeves with a parasol and zinc ointment on his face to protect his sensitive skin. He was a regular guest at her uncle's shows and parties. On the last birthday she celebrated with Warhol before he died, he gave her an "I.O.U. one art." She also was the subject of one of his Polaroid shoots.

"I remember distinctly he was wearing all black, like black jeans and black Keds and a black leather jacket and a funny little wig and chitty chatting," she says.

Her portrait, along with other Warhol Polaroids, are part of the exhibit.

In addition to Warhol, Halston found inspiration in works by artists Jackson Pollock and Vincent Van Gogh. He borrowed Warhol's colorful "Flowers" theme and incorporated it into some of his pieces. The painting and dress are the anchor pieces of the show.

"I'm a nature boy," Halston often said.

Halston, Warhol and their notable friends -- including Pittsburgh native and modern dance great Martha Graham -- supported each other. Warhol collected Halston shoes and cosmetics, and Halston commissioned Warhol to do a series of ads for him in the 1980s. The designer also sometimes slipped a Warhol image into window displays at his boutique on Madison Avenue and decorated his stark, minimally furnished townhouse with Warhols.

"They were networking before people were networking," Ms. Frowick says.

Some of Warhol's time capsules contain artifacts of their friendship, such as one filled with "Muppets" memorabilia from Jim Henson that Halston signed and gifted Warhol as a joke for his birthday. After a video aired showing Miss Piggy shopping for a Halston bridal gown, her uncle sent Mr. Henson cosmetics for the fashion-forward pig and her frog prince to prep them for the wedding.

Warhol loved it, Ms. Frowick says.

When Warhol died, Halston was "noticeably upset," Ms. Frowick writes in the exhibit catalog. She spent the days after his death with her uncle sharing stories and condolences.

"The era that [Halston] was doing his thing was so unique and full of razzle dazzle," she says. "Society was changing so quickly and becoming more integrated. It was a time in history that just doesn't exist anymore, not just historically but in terms of fashion, too."

For more from PG style editor Sara Bauknecht, check out the PG's Stylebook blog at www.post-gazette.com/stylebook. Follow her on Twitter @SaraB_PG or email sbauknecht@post-gazette.com.


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