There's a lot of information out there about Libertine designer and "creative force," Johnson Hartig, besides the basics, which are that he launched the Los Angeles-based menswear and womenswear collection in 2001 with Cindy Greene (who has since left), and that the brand stocks internationally at "it" stores like Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Maxfield in Los Angeles, Colette in Paris, and Isetan in Tokyo. Some of the other things you may have heard: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Karl Lagerfeld wear his clothes. He books models according to their energy and doesn't even look at their books. And, he LOVES Instagram (@officialjohnsonhartig). We talked to the creative genius ourselves to learn more. Hartig talks to us about the Libertine man and woman, the time Karl Lagerfeld bought his entire collection, what he's obsessed with right now and more ...
The Fashion Law – Tell me a little bit about your brand, since business, now more than ever, is focused on branding.
Johnson Hartig – There are several things that set Libertine apart. Working with recycled vintage, working as a bi-coastal team, silk screening on clothing that hadn't traditionally been printed on, and a very unique point of view.
The Fashion Law – NYC is supposed to be the “center of fashion” in the U.S. How does living in Los Angeles work for you?
Johnson Hartig – It works very well for me. I tend to shy away from attention and groups and am much less involved in the fashion scene living in Los Angeles. Being in NYC for fashion week twice a year is plenty of fashion for me, and I think it provides me with a unique point of view.
The Fashion Law – Do you ever worry about others copying your designs, and is this something you have encountered?
Johnson Hartig – Our unique aesthetic was copied almost immediately by everyone from jeans and t-shirt companies to some of the biggest designers in the world. It still is happening regularly, and yes, it is extremely frustrating. Only on one occasion, with Allen Schwartz, was it so obvious that we took legal action and ended up settling for half a million dollars.
The Fashion Law – How are you personally and/or professionally different now than when you started your brand?
Johnson Hartig – I hope I'm different. Its been 12 years and if there hasn't been any personal or professional progress, I think I'd be in trouble. I have a more refined design sensibility. For instance, I'm more interested in other design areas ... interiors and interior product design, to name a couple.
The Fashion Law – You have done a few really noteworthy collaborations. Ones with Damien Hirst and Goyard, and then at the other end of the spectrum with Target. I’m dying to know about these in your own words.
Johnson Hartig – I actually really enjoyed the process with all of our collaborations. Damien is a friend and I suggested putting the spin paintings on jackets that we could sell and donate the profits to animal rescue organizations. Target was very exciting in that it was the first time we'd actually designed a comprehensive collection from start to finish, and working with them was so streamlined and seamless. Goyard was decided on and done in 3 days. Karl Lagerfeld bought ALL 25 of the bags from Colette so nobody else got a chance.
The Fashion Law – You won the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge in 2012. What does making ecologically responsible fashion mean to you?
Johnson Hartig – It means a great deal to us to be able to create covetable garments from something that has been cast aside. If all of us did a little more, the impact would be substantial.
The Fashion Law – You have said you have really amazing customers. Eccentric art lovers and a 75-year-old woman in Ohio, who basically can’t get enough Libertine garments. Who are the Libertine girl and man to you?
Johnson Hartig – We really do have the best and chicest women and men wearing Libertine. There are no parameters, except an adventurist spirit and a keen sense of fun. Oh, and some money...
The Fashion Law – What are you working on now?
Johnson Hartig – SPRING 2014!!!
The Fashion Law – Last but not least, what are you obsessed with right now?
Johnson Hartig – My garden, dogs, and the book I'm doing with Rizzoli publishers due for Christmas.