Halston Making Yet Another Comeback
Feb 07, 2012 - by Lester Brathwaite
Maybe he's just beating a dead horse, but Ben Malka, the newest chairman and CEO of Halston, is determined to revive the iconic brand. Malka has shaken up the way Halston runs by moving the studios to Los Angeles where they will focus on the Heritage line left so carelessly behind by Sarah Jessica Parker, with plans to relaunch the Halston runway line next year. And unlike the past, money will cease to be an issue. According to Malka, We are very well-funded, so I dont have to worry about that. The money was put in by myself and my partners in a big way...The amount is enough for us to screw up for a long time.
Good, because they're going to need a little trial and error. Ever since Roy Halston diluted his brand with licensing in the 70s -- which led to his firing from the company in 1984 and subsequent death in 1990 -- the Halston line has been under something of a curse. Everyone and their mother has tried to revive it with Harvey Weinstein and SJP being the last foolhardy souls to attempt salvation.
Whereas Weinstein's background is in film and Parker's main hoof is in acting, Malka comes with a mass of fashion experience under his belt. For over ten years he served as president of BCBG Max Azria and he was planning on retiring until he got offered the job at Halston. There were maybe two or three brands that could pull me out of retirement, and this was one, Malka said. But it had to be all about the way I run it. No outside interference.
So Halston is now the Ben Malka show. Hilco, which owns the Halston brand, and a silent investor serve as passive partners while Malka holds the largest share in the company. Malka hired away BCBG's chief creative officer Marie Mazelis to design for Halston then picked up and moved the headquarters out to L.A., where he shares studio space with Mad Men. The unlikely move to the west coast is an attempt to refocus the Halston Heritage line, which they are using as a platform to relaunch the brand.
[T]he Heritage line... is contemporary and obviously this is the place for that." Malka explained. "Its also a global city and a brand like this belongs here. I think it will be a boon to the Los Angeles fashion community. Halston Heritage will range in price from $50 to $500, with certain pieces going for as much as $2500. The Halston runway line, however, will be based out of New York where an atelier is currently being constructed and is set to debut for the fall 2013 season. Prices are expected to go as high as $10,000. I want to create a strong differentiation between the two...Halston [runway] is about innovation in technique and fabric. Its about exclusivity and luxury. Heritage is about making the brand more accessible using timeless codes like fluidity and tailoring."
Malka will focus on creating a brick-and-mortar presence with shop-in-shops in stores like Bloomingdale's and Harrods, and there are plans to open as many as five freestanding stores this year alone. Taking a note from Burberry, social media will also be a key factor in Halston's revival as well as celebrity partnerships. Halston was one of the pioneers of marrying fashion and celebrity. I value that enormously. Celebrities are incredible ambassadors and we will be making some thoughtful choices after market."
For now, it certainly sounds like Halston is in good hands. Malka is running a tight ship that includes a heavily-detailed four-year plan and an employee manual that even dictates the font of email signatures. Only time will tell if he and his crew can do Roy justice, but Malka believes they're certainly on the right track. "I think if Halston were here today, he would be very pleased. And so would Liza. [WWD, sub req'd]