PROPER RENEGADE
A LOOK AT THE ETERNALLY NYLON-APPROVED LABEL LIBERTINE AND ITS SPRING ’15 COLLECTION. BY LISA MISCHIANTI

“Maybe a Wagnerian opera,” offers Johnson Hartig as he considers a musical analogue to his fashion line, Libertine, “or some sort of computerized classical genre that probably doesn’t exist yet.” He strikes the right chord—since 2001 the brand has been putting out a range of reworked vintage items and new pieces defined by eclecticism and a high-low sensibility, bringing rebellious DIY flavor to smart runway designs.

Libertine’s collections tend to be many things at once, the offerings eschewing an all-encompassing theme. “I change my mind a hundred times a day. People ask me what my inspiration is and I’ll often just make things up because it’s too complicated to try to explain it,” he quips. It’s a refreshingly uncommon approach, and the label’s spring ’15 collection is a particularly fearless, über-embellished, punk-tinged range—a flurry of colors, patterns, and textures pulling from a hodgepodge of places. “We did this tiger print that was inspired by a needlepoint pillow that my mother made in the ’70s. We did polka dots that were inspired by a Christian Lacroix print that I’ve loved since the ’80s. We did a print called ‘Magical Japan,’ which was a collage of photographs that I took
on a trip to Kyoto last spring,” says Hartig.

Everything from mod vibes to streetwear attitude to quasi-psychedelic qualities comes into play, with all-over pom-poms, a smattering of patches, and mosaic-like add-ons aplenty. The silhouettes range from chunky, cropped jackets to elegant, flowing frocks. And that’s just the clothing.

The accessories—bold, irreverent, and playful—are an adaptation of club-kid culture. “I ran into these ravers at Gay Pride in West Hollywood, who were wearing armfuls and neckfuls of this amazing beaded jewelry called ‘kandi.’ So I went home and Googled it, bought thousands of beads online, and spent an entire summer making our own raver jewelry,” recalls Hartig. The rainbow-bright fruits of his labor will bring you back to your youth, complete with melted Perler bead pendants.

Hartig likens his over-the-top vision to his experiences exploring far-flung lands. “India is the most fantastically crazy place I’ve seen in my life. There’s not a single place to rest the eye that’s calming. It’s all high-octane. I guess that’s what I try to do a little bit with my clothes,” he explains. “I’m not a less-is-more guy,” he continues. “I think there’s enough less-is-more in the world. I’m all-or-nothing, and in some situations that works really well for me. In others,” he pauses mischievously, “it gets me in trouble.” We wouldn’t have it any other way.