In silence, the opening model glided through the lofty Royal Exchange building, her sky blue cape billowing and silk scarf tied overhead. It was a touching nod to her majesty, before music blared and the sparkling, sexy partywear the label is known for resumed.
Had Halpern known the state funeral would be taking place the following day, things might have looked different – but a week before the show he was confident in sticking to the path planned.
“In times of darkness or sadness, breathe optimism and fantasy. That’s when you look to the power of fashion to get strength,” he said. And his collection certainly packed a party-girl punch.
The SS23 collection comes hand-in-hand with Barbie, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Dreamhouse. That made the starting point simple, he says: “What Barbie would wear to go out today?”
And for specifics, fuzzy memories of spectacular women from his childhood in upstate New York proved ripe for inspiration. “Growing up, my mother had these fabulous house parties, and would come out in these really deep, V-neck velvet leopard print kaftans. I decided to go back to that.”
The string of first looks came in saturated, leopard print velvet crafted into asymmetric sleeve minis or strappy column frocks. Full length latex gloves hugged the arms, as back length pony tails swayed and gold earrings brushed the clavicles. In other words, all dolled up. “People come to us for glamour and ostentatious clothing,” he said. “This is for celebrating being back in the world again.”
Then came all-out Barbie world. Pop pink and blue bouffant wigs were joyous, and polished the sequin-strewn designs based on outfits from the Barbie archive. “Seeing the past 60 years of her clothing and how it’s evolved is wild. There’s an original, chevron bathing suit which we’ve re-interpreted in embroidery, and used for long gowns and bathing suits with massive organza capes.” Bags came emblazoned with the Barbie logo, while polka dot frocks had the name slapped on.
In many ways, it is a perfect pairing. Halpern’s clothes are glossy, and not for the real world. They are for the ‘life’s fantastic’ moments – wafting across Cannes Film Festival red carpets, and perched at glossy marble bars across town. That’s the essence Halpern is set on keeping.
“I’m so happy we stuck to our guns through Covid,” he says. “We weren’t going to do pyjamas or casual wear or athletic whatever to make a quick buck.” Instead at Halpern, the party rages on.