Halston E03 (The Sweet Smell of Success)

This episode tells the story behind the creation of Halston, the fragrance the American designer launched in 1974: it became an immediate hit and is still recognized as one of the scented symbols of that decade.

Even if I never write about myself and rarely comment on what I post, I’ve decided to explain what I’ve appreciated in it and what I consider a personal affront.

The episode describes well the designing process of the organic drop-shaped bottle by Elsa Peretti, the original Halstonette: born in Florence, she worked as a model first, but soon became a close collaborator of Halston and later a designer for Tiffany and Co.

The story behind this bottle is accurately presented: it’s true that the manufacturers were not able to fill the curved bottles with the machinery they used and it’s true that Halston paid $50,000 from his own pocket to create an adapter which made the filling operation possible.

The commercial accurately reproduces the advertising campaign with which the perfume was launched.

What has filled me with disappointment and rage is the creative process. When Halston meets for the first time the perfumer who will create his perfume, I literally jumped on my chair. Seriously??? Adèle who??? Poor Vera Farmiga, giving voice to the biggest mistake of the episode.

At least they got something right: the nose who created Halston really worked for IFF. He was the Head Perfumer of the American multinational.

Yes, “he”, because there was no Adèle but Bernard Chant, who gave us fragrances like Cabochard (in 1959), Aramis (in 1966), Clinique Aromatics Elixir (in 1971), Lauren by Ralph Lauren (in 1978) and Estée Lauder hits like Cinnabar (in 1978) and Beautiful (in 1985). In the picture above, he was portrayed by Louie Psihoyos while testing perfumes on human skin.

I understand the reasons behind the narration for TV and I get that Adèle is a reassuring mother-like figure for the troubled designer, but such a gross historical inaccuracy is insulting for the memory of the perfumer, for the designer and for those who were involved in the creation of the perfume.

I’ve covered recent and less recent TV shows by Ryan Murphy and I’ve often praised the impeccable work in recreating the past, but this is too much. What a huge disappointment!

6 thoughts on “Halston E03 (The Sweet Smell of Success)”

  1. Wow – that is so disappointing… to get so many of the details right but change the name of the perfumer who played an equal role to Halston is making his fragrance the success it was…. I haven’t seen this series yet…. but thanks for sharing this info.

  2. Having just (finally) watched the series maybe they thought having a male perfumer deeply sniffing Halston’s lovers’ underwear would be a bit too much! But having got so much else in the series absolutely accurate (notably the décor in Halston’s apartment and office) totally changing the gender of the creator of the 2nd best selling fragrance of all time is unforgivable…

  3. As a side note – you know my love for vintage / discontinued skincare and fragrance – I recently acquired a vintage 80s (made between 1981 and 1990) Halston EDP and body cream set. The cream has naturally separated / gone “bad” (non that that has stopped me using it – haha) but the fragrance still smells amazing. You can see the clear lineage between it and Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir. One of the surprising notes amongst the patchouli and oakmoss in the Halston perfume is mint – its a bit of a surprise but very distinctive.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing. This fragrance in its original formulation hides so many layers and secrets! Since I wrote this post, many people have reached out to me to share their memories or impressions about it and they all pointed out how special it was ♥️ The mint note is surely part of the magic

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