Halston Kicks Zanini and Zoe to the Curb

Less than one year after being picked up by Harvey Weinstein and Tamara Mellon to helm the freshly revived Halston brand, word is that creative chief Marco Zanini has already been given the pink slip.  According to rumors, celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe’s involvement with the creative direction of the brand has also been terminated. Zanini’s absence from his office at Halston’s Spring Street, NYC headquarters further confirms suspicions of his departure from the company. WWD reports that he designed the upcoming Spring 2009 collection, but that this venture will mark his final contribution in his short tenure at the house.

Initially, the Halston relaunch exhibited genuine artistic and commercial promise – Weinstein predicted that it could again become “a great American luxury brand, something that evokes glamour, elegance, sophistication and is effortlessly timeless.” Halston’s namesake designer dressed the hedonistic Studio 54 set in a style that managed to satisfy fashion’ s pleasure principle while achieving a rather sophisticated, minimalist decorum. Over the years, various designers such as Randolph Duke, Kevan Hall, Craig Natiello, Piyawat Pattanapuckdee and Bradley Bayouhave attempted to revive the brand, with little to no success. However, this latest reincarnation offered more promising prospects : the combination of CEO Weinstein’s Hollywood legacy, Mellon’s business savvy, and Rachel Zoe’s red-carpet minded style philosophy seemed to indicate that Halston could regain a meaningful status in celebrity and fashion culture in the late 2000s. And Zanini, with his impressive track record with Versace and D&G, was thought to be the right man to steer the venerable label into the right direction at the right time. Halston could again serve as the vanguard of a new era of luxurious minimalism and subtle eroticism.

However, the feeble reception that met the Biba, Bill Blass, and Hervé Léger relaunches augured a warning to proceed with caution. Expectations were for the Halston Fall 2008 unveiling were notably high, and disappointment was almost inevitable. Sure enough, Zanini’s Fall 2008 collection was met with mixed reviews, leading some to once again doubt the viability of the iconic 70s brand in today’s market. WWD said in its review, “It’s clear that Zanini has a long way to go before he can assume the mantle of one of America’s greatest talents and make it his own,” and that the clothing was “lost in a limbo between historical reverence and the yen to update.” And Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune described Zanini’s first outing as “a polite homage to the Halston heritage without much fire,” To add insult to injury, US retailers balked due to the underwhelming response, and showed minor interest in carrying the collection (although Net-A-Porter and European and Asian retailers responded more favorably).

Understandably, Zanini was stung by the criticism that he faced in February, and reportedly  cannot be reached for comment regarding his alleged firing. As for the Halston label, insiders claim that the search is already under way for a new creative chief and that plans for brand diffusion remain under way.