Season 4, Episode 3
Halston, told by Ned Martel + Stephan Moccio
Photo by Berry Berensen
The life of mononymous fashion designer Halston was recently made into a Netflix biopic starring Ewan McGregor. Halston’s story is at once inspiring – a gay man in 1970s America who rose from obscurity to build a fashion empire that was valued at a billion dollars – and heartbreaking. Ned Martel, a producer of the show, says this combination is the key to making compelling television.
“The saddest part of our story is to have the audience watch the character struggle with drugs, and ultimately the plague that so many of his generation succumbed to,” says Ned. “That’s part of the drama, and part of the tragedy.”
Halston got his first big break when he designed a distinctive pill box hat for Jackie Kennedy to wear at her husband’s inauguration. From here the designer pivoted into women’s fashion, dressing Liza Minelli, Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, Anjelica Houston, and Elizabeth Taylor. Eventually Halston's brand covered a vast swath of American consumer goods: women and men’s fashion, luggage, carpets, and even the uniforms on Braniff airlines.
“He was inescapable in American culture,” Ned says.
Sadly, profligate spending, drug abuse, and eventually illness from HIV/AIDS caused the designer to lose control of the brand. In the last years of his life Halston was barred from using his own name on his designs.
Photo by Jeanné-Kietzmann
When songwriter Stephan Moccio watched a documentary on Halston, he felt deep empathy. The designer’s struggle to maintain creative focus in the face of wild success felt familiar.
“I know how Halston ended up where he ended up, and how he ended up that way, as well,” Stephan says. “It’s very simple.”
Like Halston, Stephan found success at a young age. While on a songwriting trip to Los Angeles from his native Canada, he wrote “Wrecking Ball” with Sacha Skarbek and MoZella. By the time he moved to LA a few months later, it was a worldwide number one smash.
“It was the right song, the right video, the right message, the right lyric,” Stephan says.
The flood of career opportunities that inundated Stephan were appreciated but overwhelming, and he soon found himself overextended and uninspired. Though he enjoyed working with artists like The Weeknd, Ellie Goulding, and Celine Dion, eventually Stephan realized that he needed to step back from producing and songwriting to focus on his own creative work. Lionheart, an album of solo piano songs, is the result.
“Having more creative control, and say in what you do is really important to me,” Stephan says.
Special thanks to Universal for the kind permission to use this song. “Halston” is performed by Stephan Moccio and written by Stephan Moccio
© Songs of Universal, Inc. on behalf of Sing Little Penguin
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