Two Decades of Libertine, the Fashion Favorite of L.A.’s A-List

Visionary designer Johnson Hartig’s madcap mixed-bouquet aesthetic has been the toast of the town since the early aughts. Now that it’s of legal drinking age, what’s next?
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It comes as no surprise that Johnson Hartig, the eccentric visionary behind the very extra L.A.-bred fashion line Libertine, made scrapbooks of socialite Pat Buckley as a child in the 1980s. “I was always attracted to people who were really committed,” says Hartig, himself born and bred in Whittier. Between the socials and the swans, the punks and the royals, the icons of the ’80s provided ample inspiration for Hartig, whose cult of extroverted couture is celebrating its 21st birthday this year.

The brand began in the early aughts when Hartig, a model, upcycled his thrift shop finds by silk-screening them with quirky art and historical motifs like a surrealist eye or a portrait of Queen Victoria. After a buyer from Maxfield spotted Hartig wearing one of his designs and placed an order, retailer Ron Herman followed, as did Colette in Paris. The rest is history.

The label’s appealing mixed-bouquet aesthetic—subversive in theme yet classically derived in application—has made Libertine the fashion darling of the eternally cool: Mick Jagger, Cher, Catherine Deneuve, Beyoncé, Brad Pitt, Jane Fonda.

Hartig’s love of nature, art, and history, as well as pop culture dichotomies like punk versus Upper Eastside, is evident throughout Libertine’s signature looks. For Libertine’s spring/summer 2022 collection, Hartig unleashes giant roses printed on coats, slim pants, and chinos, styled with leopard-print bucket hats. Was the rose symbolic of the world blossoming again?

Between the punks and the royals, the icons of the ’80s provided ample inspiration for Hartig.

Hartig’s love of nature, art, and history, as well as pop culture dichotomies like punk versus Upper Eastside, is evident throughout Libertine’s signature looks. For Libertine’s spring/summer 2022 collection, Hartig unleashes giant roses printed on coats, slim pants, and chinos, styled with leopard-print bucket hats. Was the rose symbolic of the world blossoming again?

“I was looking at my roses in my garden,” Hartig says, “and to think that these tiny leaf buds I pruned six weeks ago will become the most magnificent thing you’ve ever seen . . . .” He ponders the question. “There is a glimmer of hope, the light is coming through the darkness, and the good is prevailing.”

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This story is featured in the November 2022 issue of Los Angeles

Los Angeles magazine, November 2022 cover