Netflix's Halston already has us hooked, but the true story behind it is even more fascinating

Fashion! Glamour! Drama!

(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix’s Halston has captured viewers’ imaginations with its stunning costumes, brilliant cast and iconic scenes, but it’s the inspiration behind the new drama that’s really caught people’s attention. 

Netflix’s Halston has everything viewers are looking for in their next binge-watchable show. Set in the 1970s and 1980s, the period details, magnificent outfits and Ewan McGregor’s performance as protagonist Halston himself really transports you back to a glamorous and exciting time. The show is produced by Ryan Murphy, perhaps best known for his work on American Horror Story and the American Crime Story and anticipation for the series ahead of its release has been huge. Across five episodes, the drama miniseries depicts the extraordinary and inspirational life of one of the greatest American designers ever. 

But how much of Netflix’s Halston is true—and who is Halston? 

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

Who is Halston?

Born Roy Halston Frowick, the man Netflix’s Halston focuses on went on to become known simply as Halston. He was a legendary designer, now hailed as one of the most influential American designers of the 20th century and the man who created the classic pillbox hat that Jackie Kennedy wore to President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. 

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Halston started designing couture and ready-to-wear collections in 1966, though he really rose to fame in the 1970s, when he popularized Ultrasuede and was also known for designing simple, yet sexy, dresses that worked for a huge range of body shapes. 

Famous clients and friends, such as Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger, helped confirm his reputation as a designer to the stars and his lavish lifestyle saw him party with them at Studio 54 and host glamorous parties at his Upper East Side home. It’s thought his party-going helped inspire him to create some of his most popular designs, including the halter dress.

halston, netflix


Then, after his stratospheric rise to fame, he is understood to have been fired from his own brand in 1984 and lost the right to design under his name, reportedly due to drug use and partying. 

Halston was later diagnosed with HIV in 1988 and moved to San Francisco where he was cared for by his family. The talented designer sadly later passed away in 1990 from Kaposi's sarcoma.

Is Netflix's Halston based on a true story?

Netflix’s Halston dramatizes the designer’s rise and fall in the fashion world in the 1970s and 1980s, and the reasons for it, as is said to have drawn some inspiration from Steven Gaines’ book, Simply Halston. As with many dramas that focus on the lives of real-life figures, there are of course some things the Netflix fashion drama has changed in terms of focus. Though the drama does depict many of the real surprising moments and relationships of Halston’s life. 

The mononymous designer’s amazing talent as a fashion creator is certainly something that is very much accurate, as the show depicts his use of comfortable designs and choice of flowing fabrics that came to characterize his beautiful clothes as he rose to fame. So much so that his collection at the Battle of Versailles really did receive the astonishing reaction Netflix’s Halston depicts. 

Whilst it might seem that the Battle of Versailles is something more likely to be dreamed up by show creators, this actually took place in 1973. As in the show, French and American designers displayed their collections at the magnificent French palace and Halston’s collection really did have the audience on their feet, throwing their programs into the air. This was something referenced by Halston’s close friend, Liza Minnelli, in the 2019 documentary, Halston, where she declared: “They went bananas”. 



His friendship with Liza Minnelli is again true to life, though they were even closer than Netflix’s drama depicts, as revealed previously by Liza herself. In the Halston documentary, Liza described him as her “best friend” and in a past interview with Harper’s Bazaar, the actor stated, “We got along instantly, and he became my fashion mate. I did what he said. He really took care of me.”

And that’s not all, as Liza described how his design decisions completely changed her life, explaining, “He dressed me, and suddenly I was able to go anywhere I wanted."

“H was wonderful. He had a great sense of humour about himself, and he pushed the envelope. He put us on the map”, she shared. 

It was even Halston who helped Liza to develop her signature look, as they worked together to find the perfect outfits to suit her. The actor explained to Harper’s Bazaar: "If I liked something that he didn't think was right, he would tell me, 'No, that is not the right shape for you; you need to hang everything off your shoulders.' I'm broad shouldered, short waisted, and long legged, so you hang it off here," she said, pointing, "and it would look great." 

The extent of his friendship with Liza is not the only thing slightly changed in the show, as artist Andy Warhol is not nearly so prominent in the Netflix drama. It was reportedly Halston who first introduced Andy and Liza and Andy was often pictured with the two of them partying at Studio 54. 

The series also depicts Halston’s relationship with men, including Victor Hugo, who is said to have lived in the designer’s home during their on-off romance. Victor was also an assistant to Andy, so it might shock some viewers that the great artist appears only briefly in the mini-series, given his double connection to Halston. 

One figure who does appear, though, is Joel Schumacher, who started out working with Halston before going on to become the director of films such as The Lost Boys and St Elmo’s fire. In the drama, Joel is fired for injecting drugs at the studio and then is never seen in the series again. In contrast, in the Halston 2019 documentary, the real Joel explained that he had stopped using drugs intravenously at that point.

“Halston came to see me and he said, ‘I have backing, would you clean up your act?’” Joel said, adding: “I did stop intravenous drugs and went to work with him.” 

How has the Halston family responded to the Netflix show?

As reported by Variety, the Halston family issued a statement ahead of its launch on Netflix, in which they described the show as “inaccurate”. 

“The Halston Archives and Family were not consulted on the upcoming Netflix series involving an inaccurate, fictionalized account of famed fashion designer, ‘Halston,'” the statement declared. 

Ewan McGregor in Netflix's Halston

(Image credit: Netflix)

“The Halston Archives remains the only definitive and comprehensive source on the man and his legacy as the personally appointed custodian of his private papers and effects.”

It seems that whilst there are many aspects of Netflix’s Halston that seem to have drawn their inspiration directly from Halston’s real-life experiences, the designer’s family are not quite so convinced by the show. 

When is Halston released on Netflix?

For those who can’t wait to dive into Netflix’s Halston, then the wait is officially over. The show landed on the streaming platform on May 14, with all five episodes of the mini-series available to watch now. So there’s nothing holding you back from learning more about this fascinating designer!

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!