Image from yellsoftlydotcomThis is my favorite photograph of Elizabeth Taylor. It was taken by Richard Avedon in 1964 when Liz was in her prime. Perhaps this Liz could have worn Halston Night and owned it completely. But of course she no longer existed by the time Halston Night perfume was released in 1980. I don't even want to think about the 1980s Liz wearing Halston Night.
I don't want to think about the 1980 Halston designing it, either. This 1979 photo of Halston and Liz riding to a party shows why; not an enticing image, is it? In fact, my husband nearly derailed this review and indeed put it off for a week by pronouncing Halston Night an 'old lady perfume'. Despite that bucket of cold water, I'll have to defer to my own better judgment in this case. Halston Nights is bombastic, maybe even shocking, but it is certainly not made for an old lady!
image: Fashion's Most Wanted
Above, Halston with a huge bottle of his eponymous perfume released in 1975. Legend has it that Halston fought to maintain control over every aspect of his original fragrance, which was complicated since Halston had sold the licensing rights to his name two years earlier in 1973. He bucked Max Factor, the controlling company he was paired with; they wanted to put the scent in a square shouldered Chanel style bottle and call it 'Halston Nights'. He insisted on using the now famous 'bean' bottle designed by his friend Elsa Peretti and called the scent simply Halston. Of course it went on to become a mega-hit now known as Halston Classic. According to some it is the number two selling fragrance of all time, right behind Chanel No 5. His second (technically, his third) women's fragrance was called 'Halston Night'.
One view of the Halston Night Eau de Toilette Bottle.
The name certainly seems to fit the scent well but no one tells any stories about the creation of this perfume or its origins. The Halston Night bottles are a far cry from Max Factor's desired, straight laced Chanel mock-up. Below you see the cologne bottle from several interesting angles.
Um, are you thinking what I'm thinking? Photographs don't really tell the whole story as the feel of the bottle in the hand and the look in person is even more highly evocative than you'd imagine. The design is oddly hermaphroditic and fetishist but who designed it? Indeed Halston Night seems somewhat out of line with Halston's emerging 70s-80s brand image as America's proletariat designer. His clothing flew off ready-made racks in JCPenney's but was there a rebellious streak hidden behind the dark glasses and easy laissez-faire grin?
image: boheme extreme
Who wore Halston Night; was it Liza, Liz or Bianca Jagger? Perhaps they all did. But if so, it seems not too many others joined them. If one thing about the perfume stands out now, it's the total lack of attention it enjoyed. Was Halston giving us the finger and no one even noticed?
To comprehend the mystery of Halston Night perfume I had to go back in time to find the virile Halston, that man who was filled with purpose and in charge of his own destiny, the man who would've thought to create this monolithic beast of a perfume and put it on a woman. Don't get me wrong. I like, maybe even love Halston Night but unraveling the how and why of this scent takes time. And moving back in time we see how our little boy lost, Roy Frowick Halston, got his start in fashion and fragrance.
image from Halston: An American Original
Like so many other famous designers Halston started life as a hat maker. Above, we see the young and pretty milliner Halston styling an actress at Bergdorf Goodman Department Store in New York circa 1965. Today there is no equivalent entry point for young designers; instead of doing hats, I guess they do reality TV...
But by the early 1970s Halston had gone from hats to designing gowns and then sportswear, scarves, glasses, and perfume carving for himself a niche among the rich and famous of New York's Jet Set society along the way.
Above, designer Halston parties with Bianca Jagger, Jack Haley Jr, Liza, Michael and others at Studio 54 in 1975. Along with entree into this privileged crowd came drugs, sex and rock-and-roll-- and instability. Plagued by reckless lifestyle choices, poor health and bad luck followed. Halston began to age rapidly.
image from HALSTON, 2001(Courtesy of Phaidon Press)
Above, Halston with David Geffen, Mark Gero, Yves Saint Laurent, Steve Rubell, Nan Kempner and Fernando Sanchez at Studio 54 in 1978. And below we see an increasingly fragile Halston with a burgeoning Liz at her birthday bash in 1988.
image: guardian.co.ukOf all his muses, Halston was actually closest to Liza Minelli. Perhaps he created Halston Nights for her:
Liz, looking waif like yet ravishing in a Little Red Riding Hood inspired Halston number in a polaroid shot taken by Andy Warhol in 1977. Equal parts diva and gamine with a maniacal, nearly male energy; I can almost smell Halston Nights wafting off of her now...
Halston Night is classified as a sweet floral by Nigel Groom. The big generic perfume oil houses that offer "Halston Night Type" perfume oil blends describe it as a spicy, elegant and classy Woody Chypre. According to those sources, Halston Night has top notes of bergamot and lemon; middle notes of patchouli, rose, jasmine, and sweet carnation; base note of amber, oakmoss, and moss.
image: Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937 Salvador Dali
Halston Night features a famously hefty dose of narcissus oil as well. HN wears like a typical 1980s chypre, heavy on the amber and moss, without much in the way of oakmoss. It reminds me of Krystal and Cher's Uninhibited; its strength is intense and the feel is definitely evening and nearly psychedelic. When I smell Halston Nights the effect is initially euphoric. There is a something uplifting, almost bubbly in the mix of bergamot, lemon, narcissus and sweet honeyed carnation. The patchouli is hushed, merely enriching, as are the rose and jasmine, humming along filling everything else out. The moss gives Halston Nights a nice sultry green counterpoint lending a dark feel while staying well in the background of the amber. Halston Night was made in edt, parfum and finally cologne versions.
Halston Scentography from FashionModelDirectory.com
1974 Halston (W)
1974 Halston for men
1975 Halston Classic (W)
1976 Halston Z-14 (M)
1976 Halston I-12 (M)
1980 Halston Night (W)
1983 Halston 101 (M)
1987 Halston Limited (M)
1988 Halston Couture (W)
1992 Nautica (M)
1993 Catalyst (W)
1994 Catalyst (M)
1995 Profumo di Montecatini (W)
1998 Z (for men)
1998 Sheer (W)
2000 That's Amore (W)
2000 That's Amore (M)
2001 Unbound (M)
2010 Halston Amber (W)
2010 Halston Amber (M)
image: perfumenews.blogspotThe Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.