Designers / Fashion

Netflix’s ‘Halston’ Explores Elsa Peretti’s Rise And Friendship With Designer


Netflix’s Halston, the latest show from prolific TV producer Ryan Murphy, chronicles the life of legendary fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick—“Halston” to everyone in his orbit—whose slinky gowns and sharp day dresses defined fashion in the late 1970s and early ’80s.

The five-part series is Murphy’s second ode to a fashion genius who made a huge mark on fashion, then died too young. The producer chronicled Gianni Versace’s final days in 2018’s Assassination of Gianni Versace.

In Halston, British actor Ewan McGregor deftly inhabits the titular character. But the show is very much an ensemble production. And it had to be—Halston, in his heyday, surrounded himself with an eccentric coterie of collaborators and friends that included artist Andy Warhol, illustrator Joe Eula, dance legend Martha Graham, Liza Minnelli, and a group of effervescent model-muses that included Pat Cleveland, Anjelica Huston, and one Elsa Peretti, future jewelry legend.

Halston Studio 54
Halston (played by Ewan McGregor, in black turtleneck) and his Studio 54 crew, including Elsa Peretti (portrayed by Rebecca Dayan, third from left) in the Netflix miniseries Halston (photo: Patrick McMullan/Netflix)

Yes, the jewelry supernova, who passed away in January at the age of 80, began her career as a model for the house of Halston, among others. She developed a close friendship with the designer, and became an invaluable style whisperer and, eventually, cocreator. She honed her sculptural aesthetics making jewelry to complement his collections, and even masterminded the teardrop-shape bottle for Halston’s first fragrance.

In Halston, Peretti is played by lithesome French-born actress and model Rebecca Dayan, who portrays her as chic, a little droll, and wildly creative, which by all reports she was.

One scene in the series shows Dayan as Peretti scouring a flea market and chancing upon the simple necklace that inspired one of her first major designs, the Bottle Jug Pendant. Another chronicles her creative-directing a glass blower making Halston’s famously wabi-sabi perfume bottle (it needed to be off-center just so).

Rebecca Dayan Elsa Peretti
Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti (photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix)

Peretti and Halston were Studio 54 regulars, and the show spotlights the joy, hedonism, and grittiness of that well-documented scene. Things with Halston and Peretti didn’t end so well, and that plays out in a riveting scene late in the series—though it’s unknown how true to life any of the scenes in Halston are, as the late designer’s estate considers the entire project as unauthorized.

But the series does accurately illustrate that as Halston’s star faded, dragged down by too many low-brow licenses and the designer’s growing drug problem, Peretti’s soared. And it’s a credit to the series’ creators that the jewelry designer is centered in Halston’s story. The scenes of Peretti on her own are brief, but through them you witness her ascension from mere muse to creative visionary.

“The series also shows how Halston really believed in Elsa, pushed her to design and to push herself,” Dayan told Vogue. “Some have said that had Halston been straight, she would have been his great love. Their relationship was intense and competitive and, at the same time, they needed each other’s attention and validation. I think it’s great that our show shows her as this equal creative force.”

She added, “I think she deserves her own show.”

Top: Rebecca Dayan and Ewan McGregor as Elsa Peretti and Halston in the new Netflix miniseries Halston (photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix)

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By: Emili Vesilind

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