by MIKE CHAIKEN
Writers are told to write what they know. Connecticut model Julia Mandirola took a variation of that aphorism when she appeared in an upcoming TV series.
Mandirola, 21, played a fashion runway model in the Netflix show, “Halston,” about the famed fashion designer.
Halston was one of the first superstar designers, predating current household names such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.
Born Roy Halston Frowick in Des Moines, Iowa, he was one of the first designers to learn the power of branding. After beginning his career at New York’s famed Bergdorf Goodman as a haberdasher, Halston spun off to launch his own full fashion line. The brand Halston became the darling of New York’s high society.
In time, after joining a corporate entity flush with cash, Halston stuck his name on everything from fragrances to ties to bedsheets.
The Halston empire began to crumble when he launched a consumer friendly budget friendly line, Halston III, in a deal with J.C. Penney. The designer’s luxe customers abandoned the brand when it lost its perceived exclusivity. The final nail in the coffin was when the corporate overlords of Playtex took over and forced the extravagant brand to live within its means.
The Netflix series, which stars Ewan McGregor as Halston, is intended to follow the designer’s career trajectory. It is produced by Ryan Murphy who also has produced “Popular,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Glee,” American Horror Story,” “Scream Queens,” “Pose,” “9-1-1,” “The Politician,” “9-1-1: Lone Star” and “Ratched.”
Mandirola, a graduate of Suffield Academy in Suffield, Conn., had a chance to play one of the models walking for Halston in one of his celebrated runway shows. Mandirola’s task was to walk the runway in a vintage Halston dress from the 1970s.
The director told Mandirola and her fellow runway models, “Be powerful, do your thing and be relaxed — not too tense.”
The gig found Mandirola on set in the Upper West Side of New York City for three days before filming began. During the production, she was able to work with McGregor.
“It was great,” said Mandirola.
Right now, the airing date of “Halston” has yet to be announced by Netflix.
Mandirola said production has been hampered by the COVID pandemic. (Her scenes were shot last February before COVID began to spread.)
Although Halston passed away of AIDS in 1990, long before Mandirola was born, the model said she was well aware of his contributions to fashion and was already a fan before she was cast to appear in the show. She also was a fan of the fashions that arose during Halston’s heyday. And she just loves the 1970s.
“I love the aesthetic (of the era),” said Mandirola. The decade provided her favorite music. And she loved the tie-dyed prints of the decade.
Mandirola’s interest in modeling began when she was still a child.
“I definitely grew up watching the modeling shows and asking my mom to send my pictures to agents,” said Mandirola.
“It wasn’t till I got older that (my ambition to become a model) became more realistic,” said Mandirola.
The Connecticut native eventually signed with John Casablancas Modeling & Acting Agency of Connecticut of Rocky Hill when she was 12. Mandirola said John Casablancas’ owner Tina Kiniry took her under her wing as she learned the trade. (“She’s like a second mom.”)
Eventually, Mandirola signed with a national modeling agency and moved to New York City when she was 17.
“I’m pretty open to what I want to do (for modeling),” said Mandirola. She said she’s right at home with runway modeling, fashion editorial modeling and e-commerce modeling.
Mandirola said she also wants to get more acting gigs such as the Netflix series.
Mandirola said her primary focus at John Casablancas had been learning to model. But she said she did take some classes on acting in commercials. Those skills, she said, are easily translatable to television and film work.
Like most of the fashion industry, Mandirola’s career has been hampered by the COVID pandemic. (This season’s New York Fashion Week primarily will be a virtual affair.) She has only done a few modeling gigs since last March when the world realized how serious the outbreak of COVID-19 was. For those few modeling gigs out there, the rates have fallen due to the pandemic, adding to Mandirola’s economic stress.
Julie Mandirola is seen on set in her vintage Halston dress on the set for the Netflix series, ‘Halston,’ starring Ewan McGregor as the famed fashion designer.