Fashion / Style File

Five Minutes with Libertine Designer Johnson Hartig

BY // 05.19.15

Sporting a sparkling blue-green jacket from Libertine’s Spring/Summer 2015 ready-to-wear collection, Johnson Hartig recently welcomed me to the second-floor couture salon of Neiman Marcus Downtown on his first-ever trip to Dallas. It was a quick visit tied into a party and trunk show that drew a fashionable crowd, all fans of Libertine’s bold, graphic aesthetic. During our chat, Hartig expressed his enthusiasm for art, shared where he finds inspiration and dished on his new book, on shelves this September.

First impressions.
We were just at the DMA, and every guard asked us how we were doing. I have never met more friendly people — everyone stereotypes the South as friendly, but it’s really true. I’m staying at The Joule; I love that it’s a little bit modern but a little bit traditional.

Personal style.
It’s kind of glamorous sporty. I always like to have something sporty, whether it’s basketball shorts or trainers, but then maybe sequin leggings or a sequin bomber. I really like mixing things up. I like color, I like pattern on pattern, texture on texture. My personal style is pretty much Libertine style — which makes sense, doesn’t it?

On getting inspired.
I don’t ever have one inspiration. I have a thousand inspirations a day. I’m inspired walking down the street and looking at a cloud pattern, or the shadows of leaves on the trees, so I’m never inspired by one thing and work through a collection that way. A collection changes many times over the course of designing it and is never what I imagine it would be at the beginning.

The Libertine girl.
She’s sophisticated and worldly, interested in art and culture and the greater causes that are going on in the world. I think she’s concerned about the environment, she’s well read, she collects art, and she appreciates all those aspects in Libertine.

Art influence.
I studied art in school — I didn’t study fashion design. I collect Damien Hirst, Jimmy Baker and Titus Kaphar. Lately, I’ve been buying a lot of work from this young L.A. artist named Jason Metcalf who grew up in Utah and is very smart. Piero Golia is an Italian artist who does fantastic work. I just posted a picture of Sadamasa Motonaga, a Japanese artist at the DMA whose work I totally fell in love with — he has a show going on that just knocked my socks off.

Book release.
I have a book coming out with Rizzoli on September 22 [Libertine: The Creative Beauty, Humor, and Inspiration Behind the Cult Label]. It’s been three years and it’s been such a process. I’ve been going through archives — 15 years of photographs and archives — and I’m so, so excited about it. It’s concentrated on the last three or four years. [We will probably do] a big launch at Bergdorf Goodman, and I’m sure we will do something in Los Angeles.

Interior design.
My house has actually been published a ton. It was in the April issue of World of Interiors, a British magazine that I’ve collected for 30 years or so. It was very exciting to be published in it. [The aesthetic of my home] is just like Libertine. I mix up periods, I mix high and low — fine things with things that aren’t fine. I like a little element of humor, a little element of surprise. I think my style is quite strong and prevalent throughout my life.

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