As proved by the revolving door of designers over the past few seasons, Halston is a hard act to follow. The label was revived under Randolph Duke in the nineties, spluttered under Marco Zanini a couple of season ago, and has been coasting along with a nameless design team for over a year (the term 'rudderless ship' springs to mind). Marios Schwab is the latest designer Halston hope will be able to turn its fortunes around - and this evening, in a downbeat garage in the meatpacking district, Schwab showed his Halston, V 4:0.
Rather than leaping head-first into a catwalk show, Schwab shrewdly decided to showcase his wares in a static presentation. Thus Gideon Ponte-designed sweeps of mirror bounced light around the concrete space as twenty-five models stood to attention in his brave new vision. This being a new collection (and with Halston notoriously quick to jump ship when it comes to their design talent), Schwab didn't stray far from the Halston heyday for the late 1970s, finding inspiration in the slightly schlocky Faye Dunaway fashion feature 'The Eyes of Laura Mars'. It was the clean, crisps lines of the modernist sets that set Schwab thinking about the clean, pared-back lines of the mid 1970s. Well, that and those enviable Halston house archives, naturally. But Schwab managed where so many other have failed, looking beyond those jersey-swathed snapshots to how Halston should look for 2010. The drapes, wraps and swathes were there, of course - almost every piece has a little something fluid folding over at one point or another - but none of them seemed pure revival, even when Schwab draped satin chiffon and crepe into full-length frocks strapped with metal that were most explicitly redolent of the label's legacy.
The tension at all times seemed to be between Schwab and Halston, thus taut little trademark neoprene dresses with geometric seaming suddenly had a firm drape at the hip, or a little velvet number suddenly flipped back in on itself in a Confucian riddle of knotting and draping. The colour palette was bold, perhaps a little lurid at times, but Schwab was right to inject a volt of energy into these clothes. While those bright Grecian mini-dresses will doubtless appeal to the young, cool crowd who already covet Schwab's work, the chic shearling-trimmed wool coat in palest bone, fur-sleeved sweater dress and wicked way with twisting and draping suede in a series of skirts and jumpsuits seem destined for legions of well-matured devotees of Roy Frowick first time around. And whoever gave Schwab free reign of the accessories must be rubbing their hands with glee: split-front knee-high boots had instant must-have scrawled across their kitten-soft suede surface. With retailers wreathed in smiles and making third or fourth rounds of the room, I wasn't the only one to think so.