Some things never change: for one, Johnson Hartig’s runway shows for Libertine are always a riotous good time. And there’s never a singular theme on deck in his collections; that’d be too far restrictive for Hartig’s wild, imaginative aesthetic. Both points held true at his fall show, where Hartig cited Romanian gypsies; George Frideric Handel’s opera, “Xerxes”, and the poetry of Robert Burns as inspirations backstage before the show. “And always our whimsy, our cheeky wit,” he added.
Case in point: A few looks featured prints of the Hindu goddess Kali, with the words “Goin’ Back to Kali,” a play on The Notorious B.I.G. song. Elsewhere, there were jackets that were embellished in crystals that spelled out “Don’t Bug Me,” “Mon Dieu!” and “Holy F–k” in colorful letters. The gypsy vibe came through in a witchy black-fur shawl coat worn with a free-flowing chiffon skirt covered in floral embroidery. Not to be overlooked was the painstaking craftsmanship that was poured into Hartig’s pieces, as in a lush fur coat pieced together from 600 pieces of rainbow-dyed mink, arranged in a pattern that spelled out a verse from Burns’ poem, “O Were My Love Yon Lilac Fair.”
Hartig’s humor and elaborate use of embellishment carried through to the men’s wear as well. The over-the-top aesthetic worked best on a sweatshirt featuring a print that mixed images of Santa Claus smoking with Alexis Carrington Colby, the fictional “Dynasty” character, as well as on leopard-printed sweatpants and leggings.
An embellished hoodie over distressed sequined shorts and a sweatshirt with a panting red dog asking “Sup?” also added to the fun factor. Hartig showed his tailoring expertise with overcoats that he decorated with fringe or glittery statements — “Neat” read one — and a blazer with rose appliqués.
Interestingly, Hartig said he pushed embellishments to the limits this season, but he’s thinking that he may pull it back next time, now that so many other designers have embraced the more-is-more movement. “We’ve been doing it for 16 years now, so it’s never been a trend for us,” he said. But the thought of a subdued Libertine is almost unthinkable.