A new definitive Charles James biography by Michèle Gerber Klein was celebrated on May 10th at The Halston House. Fashionistas and socialites alike gathered to purchase the first signed copies of Charles James: Portrait of Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art.
Roy Halston Frowick’s (Halston) former townhouse was designed by the great mid-century architect Paul Rudolf. The relationship between Charles James and Halston was long and complicated. In 1958 Page Zwecker, fashion editor of the Chicago Daily News, introduced the two designers. Charles was at the peak of his fame but his world was about to fall apart, Halston who was just starting out and instantly became Charles James’s acolyte and later that year moved to New York so he could make hats for Lilly Dache. who he had met through James. As Dache recalled: “Halston learned a great deal from Charles about designing and the world of style and probably other things -too”.
Charles James was grand and under his mentor’s influence Halston became even grander.
Then in 1970 Halston hired Charles –who was past his prime as a “fashion consultant engineer” for the Halston collections- The resulting collaboration received a glowing full-page review from Bernadine Morris in The NY Times. But as soon as the review was out Halston who according to Charles offered him $250 a week for the rest of his life to stop designing dumped Charles James. In the ensuing years of Halston’s rise to fortune and vast fame Charles obsessively made of lists of designs Halston had stolen from him and in his last years described Halston to Couri Hay in tapes filmed by Anton Perish as “a middle of the road man who would be better as a buyer in a store or a stylist. He knows how to select good things, but his passion has been to put his name on it – the word plagiarism is correct.”
Among those turning out for the book party were Harold Koda who wrote the book’s forward, as well as James Andrew, Paula Antonelli , Susan Lowrey, Steven M.L. Aronson, Evelyn Lorentzen Bell, Charles Miers, Carlos Campos, Alva Chinn, Cece Cord, Consuelo Costin, Christina Davis, Elizabeth de Cuevas, Christy Ferer, Joanna Fisher, Michael Gross, Anthony Haden-Guest, Jones Harris, R. Couri Hay, Sharon Hoge, Elbrun Kimmelman, Margo Langenberg, Francine LeFrak, Iris Love, Tomas Maier, Charles Miers, Fern Mallis, Jane Trapnell Marino, Christopher Mason, Anton Perich, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Price, Ben Rodriguez-Cubeñas, Ralph Rucci, Charlie Scheips, Barbara Tober, Christopher Walling and Homer Layne, Charles’s last assistant.
Many remembered their own experiences in the house years before. All marveled at the Paul Rudolph’s famous staircases and the fire place into which Elas Peretti famously, (in a fit of pique) flung the fur coat Halston gave her. The house was decorated with white orchids that were a Halston trade mark—,another of the habits he assumed from Charles James.