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Halpern's Glittering Escapism

Michael Halpern continued to do what he knows best — presenting saturated sequin throwbacks to the glory days of Studio 54 — but that’s no bad thing at this stage in his career.
Halpern Spring/Summer 2018 | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Osman Ahmed

LONDON, United Kingdom — In times of political strife and conservatism, fashion can provide a countermeasure: swinging in the opposite direction, shining and glittering through the doldrums with glamorous aplomb. Michael Halpern is doing just that with his saturated sequin throwbacks to the glory days of Studio 54, when Ziggy Stardust and Bob Mackie reigned, and the louche lighting of nightlife shined on a famously hedonistic attitude and colourful sense of style. It's no surprise that Halpern's favourite designer is Christian Lacroix, whose exuberant, fizzy work was an eccentric riposte to more conformist times.

“The idea of escapism is still very relevant for me, especially with what is happening in the world, and in my home country, the United States,” said Halpern, who showed his second collection at the London Palladium theatre in Soho, which is bedecked in claret velvet and Victorian opulence. It was a suitable setting for Halpern to develop his distinctive handwriting of draped sequin jumpsuits and flared trousers, with nipped waisted and defined bodices. This season, everyone was waiting with bated breath to see how he would progress this forward, and he did, exploring the tactility of sequins in animal prints. Sequins became python scales or a textured leopard pattern, reaching its zenith with a streamlined double-breasted suit with perpendicular shoulders.

There were also more accessible pleated lamé t-shirts and sequin roll-necks, worn by more than a couple of the guests under slouchy tailoring. But in many ways, Halpern stood still and continued to do what he knows best. That's no bad thing at this stage in his career. Those unapologetically hedonistic tube dresses with an excess of 150,000 shimmying Swarovski fringes are what we expect from the New York-born designer, and what felt natural, for want of a better word.

In London, where Ashish Gupta has built a strong business with irreverent sequins, Halpern has managed to carve out a unique space for himself. Despite initial doubts about the commerciality of his designs — which are handmade, rakishly long and thin, and best worn in the glimmer of nightlife — Halpern is selling out in many of his premium stockists around the world. "You absolutely do not need to go commercial," asserted Linda Fargo, senior vice president of Bergdorf Goodman, who emerged to congratulate the designer and tell him she's been trying to call for more stock. She confirmed that it's the more-is-more frivolity that her clients are loving, opting for the most out-there show pieces they can get their hands on. "I'm not quite sure I've seen this happen before where someone is right out of the gate and is hitting where you are. It's very rare and it's not normal."

The challenge now is not how Halpern can keep the momentum going, but how he can keep up with the demand for his glittering work. But that’s not a bad problem to have as a novice designer.

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