When Libertine returns to New York Fashion Week after a two-year hiatus, audiences will notice a significant volte-face. For starters, designer Johnson Hartig taking a solo bow.
He and Libertine co-founder Cindy Greene first made waves with their screen-printed vintage clothes when the Los Angeles-based label launched in 2001. They were named finalists in the 2004 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, and, along the way, found a serious fan in Karl Lagerfeld, who reportedly owned 19 Libertine jackets. But in 2009, the pair split. “We were growing in different directions,” says Hartig. “Cindy wanted to close the company down altogether — she was interested in doing other things — but I wanted to continue.”
Hartig resumed designing the clothes on his own, but didn’t feel the time was right for a splashy (and public) return. Until now. “It’s a comeback,” says Hartig, who will show 25 women’s looks and eight for men on Feb. 12 at Exit Art. “A lot of people thought Libertine had just gone away. This is going to be a real departure for them.”
Libertine still revolves around screen prints and reworked vintage, but now the look is more electric and loaded with color — coats, dresses, blouses and skirts are artily splashed in vivid blues, fuchsias and greens. And though the effect could read as an Indian Holi celebration, the inspiration actually stems from a trip Hartig took to Istanbul last October. “There was a wall of white tiles next to a wall of pink and blue ones — the effect was dazzling,” he recalls. “I wanted to recreate that within an ensemble.” Hartig also lifted patterns from some of the ancient tiles, riffing on classic Islamic pomegranate and tiger stripe motifs.
Still, Hartig says he’s striving for something even more abstract, especially when it comes to Libertine’s prints. He ditched the illustrated graphics that the brand was known for (skulls, busts of Queen Elizabeth II) and is now deconstructing new ones “so they become almost part of the fabric,” he says, noting that he’s shooting for a more refined Bloomsbury feel versus the brand’s familiar WASP sensibility. “Personally, I’ve been going through a real growth spurt the past couple of years and the collection is indicative of that. It feels like a really complete, mature collection to me.”
The fall offerings also include accessories — floral brooches, fingerless gloves and graphic tights, as well as Libertine’s first entrée into footwear, via a collaboration with Jean-Michel Cazabat. A home collection of bedsheets, towels, rugs and furniture is also in the works, which Hartig hopes to sell through HSN or QVC (details and a time frame have yet to be confirmed). “In a lot of ways, I’m a frustrated decorator,” he remarks.
As it turns out, Hartig’s former partner is heading down a similar route. Although Greene said she initially left Libertine because she wanted to start a children’s line in the same vintage-meets-silkscreening vein (working name: Libertini), she eventually abandoned that idea and, in 2010, opened her own interior design firm in New York. She’s currently revamping Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport’s new Condé Nast office, as well as Arden Wohl’s apartment in NoHo.
So now that Greene and Hartig are both delving into interior design, could they team up again? “No,” responds Greene without skipping a beat, yet still making clear that there’s no bad blood. “Oh, c’mon, what do you think?” she says when pressed for gossip. “Sure, we had our difficulties, but it’s all good now. I’m glad he’s doing well.” To prove it, she plans to attend Hartig’s first solo show.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
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“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion