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Halston Heritage opens first West Coast store at Beverly Center

April 24, 2013|Booth Moore | Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic
  • The Beverly Center debuts the very first Halston Heritage boutique in Los Angeles. L.A.'s Halston Heritage features ready-to-wear, dresses, evening gowns, handbags, belts, small leather goods, and an exclusive collection of footwear.
The Beverly Center debuts the very first Halston Heritage boutique in Los… (Halston )

Halston was America’s first celebrity designer, creator of Jackie O's famous pillbox hat and a hard-partying denizen of Studio 54. He was also one of the first fashion figures to license his name, an experiment that failed miserably at the time but paved the way for the democratization of fashion as we know it today. And now, the latest iteration of his design legacy, the contemporary brand Halston Heritage, has a new home at the Beverly Center shopping mall.

The Los Angeles-based Halston Heritage opened its West Coast flagship Friday, three weeks after opening its first-ever store on Madison Avenue in New York City. Although the brand has been selling at department stores and boutiques for several seasons, the new stores bring life and context to the vision of Halston Chairman and Chief Executive Ben Malka for the first time. The former president of BCBG Max Azria, Malka took over Halston in 2011, pumping several million dollars of his own into the brand. And he couldn’t be prouder of the store located on Level 6 of the mall. “I’ve walked it a thousand times in my head,” he said, taking me on a tour of the space.

Halston died in 1990, and numerous people have tried unsuccessfully to revive the brand, including designers Randolph Duke, Bradley Bayou and Kevan Hall. In 2007, the name was bought by filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, who tried the celebrity angle, appointing Sarah Jessica Parker as creative director — an experiment that lasted for only a few months.

Weinstein is no longer involved. And this time, Malka is going a different route, emphasizing the product over the people creating it, and that includes Halston himself.

Inside the store, you won’t find a single portrait of the designer, whose heyday was the 1960s and ’70s (“That would be cheesy,” Malka said). But you will find more subtle nods to the master of sexy minimalism, who created Ultrasuede shirtwaist dresses, six-ply cashmere turtleneck sweaters and jersey halter gowns that have influenced everyone from Michael Kors to Celine’s Phoebe Philo.

The glass facade features an “H” within an “H” graphic derived from the original Halston logo. Inside, mannequins staged on a platform are meant to evoke the theatricality for which Halston’s models were known. Other design elements of the store’s interior were inspired by Halston's New York apartment, including the architectural-looking, amber-and-gray-tone shelving displaying handbags, and the floating staircase erected to showcase the new footwear collection. (Malka’s wife, Anita Jansens-Malka, is in charge of accessory design.)

Like everyone else in the business of reviving old fashion brands, Malka is trying to simultaneously capitalize on, and move beyond, his namesake designer. For shoppers who know the name, Malka hopes they remember Halston not only as disco denizen but as Halston, creator of American sportswear. That’s the focus of the Halston Heritage collection, which is created by an L.A.-based design team. The clothes have a spare minimalism and sportiness similar to what’s being offered from brands like Theory, Vince and Helmut Lang and the same contemporary price point. (Malka also plans to launch a higher-end collection under the Halston name, though he doesn’t know when.)

Highlights include a white leather paneled cotton canvas peplum jacket ($695); a belted, white shirtdress with box pleat details and a shirttail hem that curves into the front yoke ($575); slim cream leather and ponte knit pants ($895); a poppy-colored, elbow-sleeve, boat-neck gown with a draped back ($895); matte white crocodile pointy toe pumps ($345); and a gold linen doctor bag ($495). The hardware on soft clutch bags ($450) echoes the organic forms in Halston’s jewelry and perfume bottles, which were created by Elsa Peretti.

Unlike the previous incarnation of the brand, which emphasized slinky, sparkly evening gowns over daytime looks, Halston Heritage has both, and it’s aimed at working women ages 30 to 50 years old, he said, “because this is how [that age group] dresses today. They don’t look like Samantha Stevens in ‘Bewitched,’ who looked 50 at age 28.”

“Whether you know the brand or you don’t, we’re hoping it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you see a beautiful store with everyday stuff that has a certain style and is approachable and affordable,” Malka said. “And without naming names, there are 20 brands out there right now that are influenced by this, by the simplicity, the drape, the clean lines. The question isn’t, ‘Is it relevant to today?’ because it’s already out there. And this is where it came from, it started with Halston.”

Halston Heritage, Beverly Center Level 6, 8500 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 299-8407.

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