Brand Stan: Crystal Rasmussen On Halpern
Crystal Rasmussen knows a thing or two about glamour. As one of London’s most fabulous and outrageous personalities, her wit is surpassed by just one thing: her sixth sense for sniffing out the most daring and decadent designs that Britain has to offer. We asked her to tell us more about her enduring love for Halpern...
Nothing makes you invest in a brand like the person behind it. I don’t mean financially — I can afford six items of clothing a year at best, and that’s when the drag gigs are plentiful. No, I mean emotionally. I mean follow every move a designer makes, and praise a collection, a garment, an editorial as if it were your own child winning the egg and spoon race at school.
For me this brand is Halpern. It was Fall 2017 when Michael and his eponymous brand made waves in an industry that had been obsessed with oversized hoodies for about two seasons too many (although don’t get me wrong, I love me some humongous casualwear).
But here we were, stood at Halpern’s show, feeling the buzz of those in the know but not knowing what was about to (re)enter fashion’s world stage with a glittering thwack: glamour. Out came the looks: detailed, dramatic. Everyone in attendance breathed a sigh of relief. Here was fantasy, dreaming, thigh-high boots, and sequin trains which swept the floor like Grace Jones at Studio 54 — the same place, I later found out, Michael’s mother learned the art of glamour, a regular on those hallowed tiles. Of course, she taught him everything he knows, which he admits freely: “from such a young age, she possessed an incredible sense of self that oozed glamour and confidence; this is the basis of where I come from when I speak about clothing.”
At the time I was tired of fashion: worried about the environment, capitalism, the state of the world (I still am). But this show — and every single one since — made me sit up in my seat. It reminded me why I’d fallen in love with this absurd industry in the first place. It wasn’t clothes I’d fallen in love with as a young drag queen in Lancashire, it was the fantasy they could offer. “It's a feeling of escapism, of luxury, and knowing one's incredible self worth,” as Michael puts it. “Glamour is allowing yourself to feel that full fantasy, and truly knowing the value of what that can do for you."
But with great glamour comes great responsibility. This is the reason Halpern has so many fans. Because glamour, sequins and sparkle isn’t frippery — it’s not foolish, or dumb, or shallow. Much the opposite: it’s about feeling wonderful, and knowing you deserve to. I was lucky enough to meet Michael at Port Elliot festival after his second season, and after we’d got past my fan-girling (what do you expect?) it turned out that Michael’s understanding of glamour isn’t solely about the garment and the feeling it gives you — it’s about the story, the references, the incredible people who came before.
Having since visited his studio, these references are everywhere — like a history book which weaves its way into every single thread. “Being able to celebrate the people I respect and love so much by marking their impact on me is something I really love to do with the shows,” Michael explains when I ask him about these rich references he’s such a master of. “Allowing oneself to pay respect in such an overt and extravagant way is something that brings me, and hopefully others, so much joy. Plucking out moments that had such impact on myself and the world in terms of fashion history, times of opulence, and social change is where I feel a truly extraordinary show can be made.”
Crystal Rasmussen is the alter ego of writer, performer and media personality Tom Rasmussen, author of 2019’s bestselling Diary Of A Drag Queen.
Crystal wears clothing by Halpern