There seemed to be as many sparkling crystals at Spring Studios last night as in a star-filled galaxy far, far away. This was thanks to the Libertine-clad guests who gathered for Johnson Hartig’s return to the runway. “The time just felt right for a show, and I had dinner with Thom Browne in L.A. in June,” explained the designer. (The two men are old friends.) “He said, ‘As chairman of the CFDA I’d love to see you show in New York this season.’ That propelled me.”
Powering a good part of the collection was Hartig’s discovery of a stash of fabric books from the ’30s and ’40s in a dusty antique shop in Morocco. A red, white, and blue “confetti” and a blue and white dot print made their way into the collection, and inspired a similarly colored tweed. These patterns were used for looks that channeled the kind of jaunty nautical styles found in films aired on TMC. In contrast, the inclusion of ceramic tile patterns in a collage-print read more directly like souvenirs from Hartig’s vacation.
The quality of craftsmanship at Libertine is unvaryingly excellent. Incredible to look at and incredibly made was a fringe and flower embroidered jacket. Hartig has a penchant for pendant decorations and crystal beading, and indulged in them on familiar silhouettes, which are beginning to feel templated. Carnations and roses bloomed, while “paint” strokes were augmented with patches of swingy fringe on a coat. The designer’s love of art was referenced in the use of what he referred to as a “Hockney Pool Blue.” A suit embellished with crystal eating utensils might have looked like it was conceived as a sort of companion to the “Chelsea Plate” pattern, but was actually inspired by a photograph of Salvador Dali. Hartig silk-screened lace onto a white jacket after it had been made, and this created a very interesting and deliberately imperfect effect. These foibles that come about in handcraft were kept in place in the development of a heart print, but lacked the same effect.
Hartig loves decorating and his home was recently featured on the cover of The World of Interiors. This bears mentioning because this collection felt more like the designer was rearranging things than redecorating. The “favorite things” aspect came through loud and clear, but not in such a way to establish a mood (the music did that) or a clear storyline. That won’t phase Libertine’s established customers/collectors, but it would be nice to see Hartig push beyond his comfort zone.