After launching his label in 2001, JOHNSON HARTIG has placed LIBERTINE on the map as a brand standing as the creative helm of ready-to-wear reinventing modern fashion. Our fashion features editor Katarina Djoric sits down for an interview with Johnson to talk about his creative process, inspiration and fashion trends.
Besides fashion, you are into graphic design, photography, and video art. Is Libertine a way to express all of your talents in one?
It comes close but nothing could combine all of my interests and talents, which is why I do many things I find that they all influence one another in a positive way, and help to make each one of them more comprehensive.
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How has your work evolved since you began your own label 15 years ago?
In the beginning we used vintage exclusively. Over the last several years we have started producing a lot more of our own- designing our own fabrics that we have printed in Italy. Producing garments in Los Angeles and in New York that we hand embellish in our Los Angeles studio. Obviously our esthetic has changed over the course of the years. Our men’s line has become a lot more street oriented, attracting a large hip hop and music audience. The women’s collection has remained an interesting combination of street and chic catering to an eclectic mix of internationally acclaimed chic women, socialites, actresses, singers, and fashion girls. We keep up with the changing times but we always keep it bold and exciting for our customers.
What is the inspiration behind your vibrant designs?
Inspiration comes every day from the most unexpected places. Art plays a huge role as I studied painting and drawing at university it influences most everything I do. I take inspiration from nature, gardening, decorative arts, and interior design. Everywhere really.
Is there a connection between your collections?
Yes, as they have all come from me there is always a silver thread that connects all of them.
Does your approach differ when designing men’s wear compared to women’s wear?
Yes as I mentioned before, men’s wear is much more street, youthful and music oriented. Women’s wear is more sophisticated, chic and uptown.
You said: “Vintage is what we know and love”, but what does sustainable fashion actually mean for you?
Being conscious in every decision. From where we source our fabrics and how it’s produced. Where our embellishments are made, and how the people that make them are treated. Being conscious of the planet in every decision we make, whether it has to do with clothing or not. We always try to do the right thing.
What is the FW16 fashion trend that you stand up for?
No trends. We never follow trends, we never will. We create them and others follow us.
How would you describe Libertine clients?
Worldly, sophisticated, accustomed to the best, interested in art, travel, culture. and being unique individuals.
Tell me about the creative exchange with Damien Hirst.
Damien wrote us an email saying he had bought some of our clothes in the south of France, we wrote back saying we loved his artwork and there a relationship was formed. We then collaborated on jackets one season and donated the proceeds to animal rescues. It was a fun time in Libertine’s history, and we did good for the animals at the same time.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
World politics, and especially American politics now! Things I am always interested include travel, culture and art. My interests don’t change dramatically from season to season they remain pretty much the same.
What advice would you give to young designers?
Have a good idea and be prepared to work really really hard. This industry is not as glamorous as it looks, and is a never ending cycle!
All Images from LIBERTINE FW16 collection, image of designer Johnson Hartig by Andrew Durham.