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July 17, 2008 4:17 PM

Business, Fashion

The Halston Watch

A look from Halston. On July 16, I broke the news that Marco Zanini is out at Halston after one, somewhat ill-fated, runway outing. While the company has yet to confirm the news officially, my sources are reliable.  Writing...


A look from Halston.
On July 16, I broke the news that Marco Zanini is out at Halston after one, somewhat ill-fated, runway outing. While the company has yet to confirm the news officially, my sources are reliable. 

Writing the story, I kept thinking, why is it so hard to get Halston right? (Past attempts by designers like Randolph Duke, Kevan Hall, Craig Natiello, Piyawat Pattanapuckdee and Bradley Bayou didn't really stick much either.) The Halston DNA is probably as strong, if not stronger, than most American fashion brands today, and over and over again, legions of designers (hello, Tom Ford!) are inspired by the chic jersey dresses, the ultrasuede ensembles and the lifestyle the designer led in the late Seventies when he and his Halstonettes epitomized chic.

What makes Zanini's exit particularly poignant is that this relaunch had two high-profile personalities -- Harvey Weinstein and Tamara Mellon -- behind it. With his entertainment clout and her nose for business opportunities, you'd think the relaunch was a fait accompli, the buzz around their involvement creating such anticipation that Zanini could have created the emperor's new clothes and gotten away with it.

In the end, all that hoopla made everyone forget that this was just another designer line looking to relaunch in a tough market, and fashion observers around the world know that there are dozens of such lines looking to be revived. What's compelling is the pressure the companies face to become a commercial hit, and the little time designers get to prove themselves (Lars Nilsson was fired from Gianfranco Ferre before he even showed his first runway collection; Anne Klein shuttered its designer collection by the much-loved Isabel Toledo after just two shows). I will be interested to hear your thoughts on how much time designers should be allowed to prove themselves, and if it's fair to dismiss them after just one try.

Marco Zanini

No doubt fashion insiders are wondering about the next designer to try his or her hand at this venerable brand. Before Zanini's hire, the owners were said to have been keen on Narciso Rodriguez. He has since sold a stake in his business to Liz Claiborne Inc. and is looking to build his own name, so I'm not so sure about that one. The industry also seems to love the recurring rumor that Weinstein's wife, Marchesa's Georgina Chapman, will take over at Halston. That seems just as unlikely, as her own label is really gaining traction. Watch this space.

On a side note, I had a thought about Halston when I walked into work the other morning. As it's so hard to build a luxury brand these days, why not reinvent this famous name as a hot contemporary label, full of dresses for cool girls who like to spend their nights dancing out on the town? What do you think?
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