Johnson Hartig is the Los Angeles-based designer and founder of the oh so fabulous clothing label Libertine. Shown twice a year during New York Fashion Week, Hartig’s collection is the one that we are always most excited to cover. Perhaps it’s the explosion of prints and emblems on colorful clothing, as well as the intriguing mix of punk references on high fashion clothing. Or perhaps it’s because each individual piece of clothing is a thought-out piece of wearable pop art. But whatever the reasons, we are extremely ecstatic for our interview with the brilliant Hartig. Photography Alexander Thompson

PONYBOY:  Johnson, we’re big fans of the Libertine label and it’s always a Ponyboy favorite to cover during New York Fashion Week! Please tell us about your most recent collection for Fall/Winter 2017.

JOHNSON HARTIG:  Thank you! We’re big fans of Ponyboy! Our Fall/Winter 17 collection was inspired by everything from Romanian gypsies to Ann Getty’s interior design. Always art inspirations, as art is nearest and dearest to us. With my art background, it’s little wonder… it was a really luxurious collection, and quite divine and rich we think…

PONYBOY:   Libertine collections are always such a fun event – so young and filled with colors, patterns and textures. Where do you get your inspiration from?

JOHNSON HARTIG:   Travel, literature (the pop art word print was Robert Burns’ “Oh were my love yon Lilac fair” done in these intoxicatingly bright saturated colors), nature, history, luxuriousness, beauty, punk rock, no wave, and classical music…all the usuals…

PONYBOY:   Each show is a visual explosion of creativity. And we can never decide our favorite Libertine looks each season (those punk Union Jack pieces from Spring/Summer 2017 are always in our dreams!). But offhand, for this collection, we loved the pieces with holographic paillettes, the full leopard looks, and the “Neat Neat Neat” trench, which we think might be a nod to The Damned song? Oh and we mustn’t forget the black coat with the silver beading and hands that gave us Art Deco/Schiaparelli visions. What would you say are your own personal favorites from this collection?

JOHNSON HARTIG:   I love the “neat, neat, neat” crystal effect, yes inspired by the Damned, also a cool “Birthday party” sweatshirt, and the all-over leopard spotty looks DRIVE ME CRAZY –  so fucking divine…men’s clothes are so easy, women are more complicated…

PONYBOY:  There seem to be consistent pop art/punk overtones in your collections, which is something that we go crazy for. Would you say this comes from your formative years?

JOHNSON HARTIG:  Yes, of course! I was a product of the late 70s/80s and there was a thriving punk rock scene in Los Angeles and Orange County. It was such a free time to express one’s creativity through clothing, and especially being in art school at the time – never could beat that time – the kids of today have NO idea how to express themselves – they aren’t confident enough, there’s too much self-analyzing now…it’s a shame really…

PONYBOY:  We’re enamored with the pop art “lettering” print on Looks #16 & 17 – that mink is just fantastic! Did you design that print?

JOHNSON HARTIG:   Yes, I designed it. As I said, it’s the English romantic poet Robert Burn’s poem done in poppy colors….that mink coat is over 600 pieces of intarsia pieces – our furrier called us in a rage when she received the pictures of what I wanted and said she could never do it, then did, and it is her favorite thing she’s ever made now…

PONYBOY:   Some of the very dramatic one-of-a-kind coats and capes that are shown on your runway each season are extensively covered with embellishments/beading, which must be very labor-intensive to create. Can you tell us on average how long it might take to make a piece like this?

JOHNSON HARTIG:   Some of them weeks, some of them a day, some hours, and in a great flurry of inspiration, if I’m in the studio working alone, with a great classical aria playing, maybe just minutes…inspiration is elusive, and can’t be predicted…

PONYBOY:   We’re big vintage collectors and have been for years since high school actually. And we’ve never stopped collecting! The Libertine label is not only ready to wear, but also an interesting mix of vintage with embellishments. Would you say that vintage plays a big part in your life as well?

JOHNSON HARTIG:   Vintage is all I wore when I was a young man, we all did, everyone in art school then did…the more outrageous the better…and in fact, my Grandmother and Great Aunt Birdie used to take me to thrift stores when I was a very young child – they loved it so much…they used to wear one pair of shoes into the store and wear another pair they liked better out – their reasoning was – they’re all old anyway – who cares as long as they leave a pair…any wonder I have such a rebellious contrary spirit?!

PONYBOY:  You are a West Coast-based label. Do you have any thoughts of opening a boutique in Los Angeles?

JOHNSON HARTIG:  We are opening a free-standing Libertine shop in the new Fred Segal store opening in the fall on Sunset Boulevard. That’s as close as we’ll get to our own store I think – we’ll leave that to the pros.

PONYBOY:  A rather sad thought, a large chunk of your Spring/Summer 2016 collection went missing, thanks to UPS. This is such a devastating loss, as your pieces are like works of art. Were the pieces ever recovered?

JOHNSON HARTIG:  Nope, never saw that box again…I know it’s sitting in some warehouse somewhere just waiting for us patiently …what a cadre of divine things just sitting there in a dark box somewhere …


Underground vintage men’s & women’s fashion, people & music from NYC.