Johnson Hartig is feeling “disenfranchised and frustrated.” So he addressed it in the only way he knows, with an eye-poppingly colorful collection of both men’s and women’s wear with all his trademark bells and whistles.
“Creating beauty is my best form of resistance,” the designer said backstage before his show Monday afternoon. He said every day when he wakes up and turns on the news, “it’s like living in an alternate universe. I have a lot of pent-up anger.”
You’d never know it from the lineup, which was as cheerful and uplifting as any he’s ever turned out in his 17-year career. New this season were hand-painted and hand-beaded coats in a soothing blue and white palette reminiscent of the sea. A Sixties-inspired “Balenciaga-style” coat with a pleated back was also a new addition. In addition, he partnered with Cover swim on leggings, turtleneck bodysuits, bikini bottoms and even men’s suits in his trademark prints.
The rest of the lineup was comfortingly familiar with an explosion of florals on men’s suits and women’s coats and highly decorated appliqués of everything from fish and strawberries to babies smoking. Varsity jackets were reinvented in the Libertine way with a glittery cat on the back, while basketball shorts and jerseys featured a patchwork of patterns and track pants had a Libertine stripe down the side.
In addition to the hand-painted coats, other showstoppers included a glittery floor-length mesh dress with dangling fish, and an off-the shoulder black dress with embellished florals appliqués.
But despite the upbeat tone of the collection, Hartig admitted he was a little anxious about how the line would be received. “This is the most difficult collection I’ve ever designed,” he said. “When we started, we were the only ones over-embellishing things. But now everybody is doing it and it forces one to reconsider everything. But this is not a trend for me, it’s what I’ve always done and what I will continue to do.”
Don’t stop, Johnson, don’t stop.