Halston had a tough year in 2011, with the label's much-touted partnership with Sarah Jessica Parker coming to an abrupt end, as well as Harvey Weinstein severing ties with the label and losing its top designer, Marios Schwab. But the year ended with a glimmer of hope in the label's recruiting former BCBG Max Azria president Ben Malka (out of retirement, no less) to lead the brand into 2012.
In a new report, the private Malka gives WWD a glimpse of the inventive path he's given the new Halston, which includes splitting operations between the two brands: Halston Heritage, which will be re-booted first for Fall 2012, is now based out of a gated studio in Los Angeles, while the runway label -- still under wraps -- will reportedly be based out of an atelier in New York. Los Angeles has long been a growing fashion city -- especially with labels like Rodarte, Band of Outsiders, and Jeremy Scott boasting home bases there -- and the decision to move the label's contemporary offerings west does seem like a smart one. It certainly takes a certain amount of pressure off, from an industry press perspective.
Malka tells WWD that the brand has impressive liquidity and his stake is "enough for us to screw up for a long time," whlie also stressing that he's beginning with funding and innovation, instead of looking to the past:
"I want to create a strong differentiation between the two," he said, noting that the brand’s range was made possible by the "hundreds of DNA codes" in the late designer’s legacy. "Halston [runway] is about innovation in technique and fabric. It’s about exclusivity and luxury. Heritage is about making the brand more accessible using timeless codes like fluidity and tailoring."
To execute on his vision, Malka recruited chief creative officer Marie Mazelis, whose debut collection for fall features easy basics like striped turtlenecks, draped dresses, and slouchy pants. The fall collection will also reportedly include bags and shoes.
While Malka is clearly the kind of details-focused executive with the vision to lead Halston out of the mire, the fact remains that Halston has been re-booted before, and with mixed results. The new Halston Heritage, in fact, seems to be not that long after the old new Halston Heritage, which may create some brand confusion for customers who just got used to Sarah Jessica Parker's "Sex and the City" brand of draped dresses and '70s-inspired easy silhouettes.