Monday 15 February 2021

HALSTON by Bernard Chant

The term “best seller” is one that gets thrown around with ease these days. Everything seems to qualify for the description, from fragrances through to books, so you often wonder what they’re actually being compared with? The days of the true “international best seller” are long gone, because customers demand constant variety and novelty, but it wasn’t always that way. Forty-six years ago a perfume was released by Max Factor that truly took the world by storm and, excusing a few reformulations, is still in production. Familiar to many, but possibly new to some, it’s time to rediscover the legend that is Halston by Bernard Chant.

The seventies were a hotbed of political and social change, and right in the middle of this was a designer by the name of Roy Halston Frowick. He had originally begun his career as a milliner, going on to have his own department at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, but fashion was where his future would lie. With an unrivalled reputation that could be traced back to designing Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox hat for her husband’s presidential inauguration in 1961, it will come as no surprise that his celebrity clientele contained everyone from Hollywood royalty right through to the society set.

Known simply as Halston, he opened his first fashion boutique in 1968 but full prominence would come the following year with the launch of his first ready to wear collection. We’ll jump forward slightly to 1973 when, in a move that echoes what would later happen to Jo Malone, he sold all rights to his name to Norton Simon Industries. He remained as full artistic director but by the mid-eighties no longer had any input into the design or running of the company. Halston died of an AIDS related illness in 1990, just short of his fifty-eighth birthday, but his legendary self-titled fragrance lives on.

One of the companies that Norton Simon Industries owned was Max Factor, and in 1975 they released the Halston fragrance. Created by Bernard Chant of IFF, and in a teardrop inspired bottle by Elsa Peretti, it would result in an incredible $85 million of sales in its first two years. Now owned by Revlon, the fragrance has never been out of production and still retains the bespoke Peretti design that was such an iconic part of that original launch. With the fragrance arriving at the height of disco, coincidentally in the same year as Gloria Gaynor's debut album, Halston was inspired by the period's drive for female independence.

This chypre fragrance opens with an aromatic hit of mint and bergamot but, very quickly, a peach note starts to come through that is then added to by a rose and jasmine pairing. This is followed by an arresting clove-like carnation and cedarwood, and then the magic really happens. Halston still has both treemoss and oakmoss to give that real seventies quality and these, in conjunction with an earthy vetiver and amber accord, really do pack a punch. This may be advertised as “cologne” strength these days but don’t let that fool you, Halston is pretty tenacious. I'll admit, it might be a gloriously rough around the edges, but wasn’t that what the seventies were all about?

Halston Classic Eau de Cologne is available widely online, and is currently available on Amazon priced at £18.89 for 100ml. [Bottle was purchased]


  1. I remembered seeing Halson on the dresser of either my mom or my aunt when I was a kid, so when I saw it at a really good price a couple of years ago I picked up a bottle. I still haven't worn it yet, I'd forgotten all about it until reading this piece. I'm gonna go look for it and wear it today. Really timely since last night my husband and kids were listening to the Pandora disco channel and it reminded me of Ciara, another one that was sitting on that dresser in 1977.

    1. Hello Jeannine, thank you for your comment. I also have Ciara and I'm going to get it out of storage tomorrow to have another smell. Enjoy Halston and have a look at the documentary on Amazon if you get a chance (also called Halston) because it's fantastic! Best, Stephan

    2. Thanks Stephan, I'll check it out.