After 14 years of slow and steady, Johnson Hartig’s Libertine catapults forward with a massive Los Angeles flagship and a gleaming new photo book.
Johnson Hartig realized his Libertine team had outgrown their Hancock Park studio when they could no longer see the walls. It had only been two years since they’d moved in, but business was booming, and stuff was everywhere. Hartig’s friend Joel Chen of JF Chen gallery informed him of a massive space just five minutes from Hartig’s house and, with that, the fashion world’s beloved maverick was on the move.
Hartig delights in putting his stamp on the former warehouse, which will double as a by-appointment atelier. “I’m an inherent collector…it looks like this place is already on its way to being junked up,” he says. As he’ll tell you in the introduction of his first book, Libertine: The Creative Beauty, Humor, and Inspiration Behind the Cult Label (Rizzoli, $65), out this month, Hartig is a lover of beauty in every medium—interior design (his home has been featured in countless design books), art (for many years, Hartig and artist Damien Hirst would trade clothing for paintings), gardening and travel.
The designer grew up in Whittier and his father worked for an oil company, which required the family to make frequent trips abroad. “I think it just instilled a wanderlust in me. I can’t stay still very long,” he says. Hartig takes up to eight vacations each year, in addition to work trips to New York and Paris.
Libertine got its start 14 years ago producing one-of-a-kind, silk-screened vintage pieces. After Hartig and his business partner of eight years, Cindy Greene, parted ways in 2009, it took some time for him to find his own rhythm. Today, more and more of the Libertine collection is new construction, though Hartig says the brand will never exist without its signature vintage pieces. Recent trunk shows with Bergdorf Goodman have been buying frenzies. “It used to be a cool kind of downtown girl who wore Libertine, but now it’s this uptown lady who wears the best of the best,” Hartig says.
As for the urban, hip-hop shift in the menswear collection, which he shows on the women’s runway (Hartig only does fall and spring collections), it’s largely inspired by the eclectic concept boutique Wild Style on Melrose Avenue. “We are still a cult label,” Hartig assures. “I only have 27,000 Instagram followers.” By appointment, 1124 N. Citrus Ave., L.A., 323-424-7112; @officiallibertine; ilovelibertine.com.
Edited by Kelsey McKinnon.