Halpern, The Designer Defining a New Era of Glamour

Halpern, The Designer Defining a New Era of Glamour

We talk with Michael Halpern, the designer ushering in a new-age of disco-glam style.



We talk with Michael Halpern, the designer ushering in a new-age of disco-glam style.

Text: Danielle Combs

The ushering in of chart-topping disco music, vivacious sequined gowns, and the wild nights at Studio 54 that bled into the mornings defined an era, marking a period in time unlike any other in its existence. For 30-year-old Michael Halpern, those visions of disco daydreams, neon lights, and exuberant glamour still ring true for the American designer who is aiming to revitalize an era of fashion expressionism.

Graduating just three years ago in the Central Saint Martins MA Class of 2016, Halpern is invigorating the fashion world with a wholly new approach to designing. His sequined, colorful disco-glam creations are stylish escapism at its finest. Never one to shy away from his definitive sense of high-octane glamour, Halpern is breaking down the confines of traditional dressing and devising his own set of rules—including wearing sequins during the day.

In an exclusive interview with V, Michael Halpern discusses how he found his love for fashion digging in his mother’s closet, working with Donatella Versace, and how he uses fashion and art as a form of resistance.

Describe the first instance you knew you wanted to become a fashion designer.

It was actually quite complicated because I didn't know I wanted to be a designer my whole life. But when I was really young, I loved fashion because of my upbringing. My first kind of real fashion moment was definitely in my mom's closet. She had clothes dated from the ‘70s and the ’80s. I remember a beautiful green chiffon dress. That was my first moment like, 'Wow, this is really amazing'. It's really stuck with me.

Going off of that, I know that New York in the ‘70s has played an influential role inspiring or influencing your design philosophy.

It’s not just about getting to see the pictures. Absolutely, it’s great to look at visually, but it was how my mom and her friends used to talk about that kind of [style] that’s really similar to what's going on today. Things have been really uncertain and scary. So it’s more about the stories of those women and men from that time that’s been really inspiring—using what you have, using fashion and art as a form of resistance. And I think that's really why that time period informing my work is the most important part for me.

Like so many great designers, you attended Central St. Martins. How was your experience there and how did that shape your perspective on fashion?

It was so important because I was just coming from New York, coming from going to Parsons for my undergrad, so it was a completely different way of working. And a different way of thinking about fashion because it's so much about your own kind of personal vision and how you want to be so sensitive and being really not that worried about the commerciality of everything until you have to do a collection.

At what point did you decide to create your eponymous line?

I lived with the idea that I would start a brand. It sort of was organic in the way that I had quite a few people approaching me right after the MA show and were asking if I was going to sell the collection. I didn't really have any answers for them right away. But some really wonderful stores approached me. I was doing work [for another job] and at the same time I was doing my own collection, so it just happened really organically and we didn’t do anything too quickly, nothing too big production-wise for the first season. It was really organic. It was about doing things when the time was right and not pushing too quickly.

What was your experience like working at Versace and Oscar de la Renta?

Versace is an incredible place. It’s such a warm environment and one where you're able to express yourself and learn and really grow with the whole team, including the boss there who is so supportive of young brands. These [brands] have some of the best people that have worked there for the past 40 years—they know it all and they’ve seen it all. It’s an incredible thing to be exposed to as such a young designer.

How would you describe your approach or take on fashion?

I think there are lots of ways that I look at it and I think about it, but I think the biggest thing is confidence and how someone wears something. It’s how a woman feels in the clothing and how it makes you want to react to certain situations that are happening in your life. You need these types of clothes nowadays, because you need that escapism. You need that way of thinking and working because there’s not much you can do that helps you get through scary situations. I think the clothing and being able to have that clothing react in that way is very important.

What is your overall process like when creating a collection? Do you drape everything yourself?

Well, research is of course super important and a very big part of the development process. I like to be very thorough and I do everything off a mannequin. Draping is very important for me because when I figure out how to make something, it’s how I decide if we’re going to move forward with something, including deciding on the fabrics and finishes which are very important to me.

I know you’re in the process of taking some next big steps for your line. Are your plans to branch out into daywear?

Yeah, we are. I also think that the word “daywear” is something that we talk about a lot, but there are so many rules on modern day dressing. What is daywear? What is eveningwear? How do those two things work together or work against each other? I think you can very easily put the collection into a full eveningwear brand. But the interesting part of that is challenging. What is appropriate to wear at noon? What is appropriate to wear at midnight? I think those kinds of questions are what I'm going to be asking myself when it comes to branching out and doing things in a different way then we have done in the past because I think those questions are important and need to be asked.

Where do you think the future of fashion is headed?

Towards a much more colorful and euphoric place.

MICHAEL HALPERN
Credits: Images courtesy of Carly Scott

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