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Jeriana San Juan, the costume designer of Halston, the Netflix series about the life of America’s first fashion superstar, says the designer’s genius during the ’70s and ’80s was to offer his customers a feeling of freedom. “He believed in a very minimalist approach, with as few seams as possible, that allowed women to have as much movement as possible,” says San Juan, who looked to his signature color red as a focal point in the show. “He believed that all color goes with all color. Red played a big part in his designs and often contrasted with orchid, brilliants blues and metallics that he made so famous in the disco era. Red even appeared in the carpet of his offices at Fifth Avenue’s Olympic Tower.”
The Bergdorf Goodman milliner turned designer (played by Ewan McGregor) was a favorite of Jacqueline Kennedy (he designed her inaugural pillbox hat), while his close friend Liza Minnelli (Krysta Rodriguez) wore his clothes exclusively. Jewelry designer and former Halston muse and model Elsa Peretti, who died March 18 at age 80, also is featured in the five-part series, played by Rebecca Dayan. And Tiffany & Co. — for whom Peretti created numerous collections over the decades — lent original jewelry and accessories to the production.
In the Ryan Murphy show, which premieres May 14, San Juan, who already had re-created 1970s styles in Baz Lurhmann’s The Get Down, chose to “celebrate the iconic pieces and fabrics that were part of [Halston’s] DNA.” This included his revolutionary techniques in sophisticated batik and tie-dye, use of Ultrasuede, and signature caftans and hammered silks. While San Juan tracked down a few vintage originals from collectors (such as a sequin caftan from the 1973 Battle of Versailles fashion show), most costumes were made from scratch. San Juan even located Halston’s personal tailor Gino Balsamo, who walked her through the steps of constructing trousers with no side seams.
San Juan dressed McGregor in Halston’s uniform of a black turtleneck and slacks. “As his world evolved, he did wear a variety of sports jackets and coats, and found a way to accent them whether it was a white scarf or a very specific fabric he called ‘Wild Rice’ that was a double-faced cashmere wool,” says San Juan.
And in a true moment of taking Method acting to the next level, she notes, “[McGregor] spent a lot of time in my studio and learned how to handle scissors as if he had done so for 20 to 30 years and turn a model around in the fitting.”
The designer even sent a sewing machine to the actor’s home during a COVID production break: “He made a pair of pants and sent me a picture. He did a fantastic job!”
Organic, Iconic: The Jewelry of Elsa Peretti
Peretti’s jewelry continues to be sold by Tiffany & Co. and is also highly collectible at auction. “There has always been a healthy market for Elsa Peretti’s designs, which are frequently included in our online sales,” says Christie’s head of sales for online jewels at Caroline Ervin.
“Certain jewelry collectors also prefer to acquire pieces from the time period in which a designer was actively working at a company and therefore seek out earlier versions of her iconic designs. Her designs are fresh and modern, yet timeless,” continues Ervin.
This story first appeared in the May 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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Jeriana San Juan