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Desigual collaborates with Libertine founder Johnson Hartig

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

16 Feb 2022

Fashion |Interview

Image: Desigual

Los Angeles-based designer Johnson Hartig, founder of the fashion label Libertine, is launching a capsule collection with Spanish fashion brand Desigual on March 1.

Hartig brings his love of patchwork, prints and sequins to Desigual for a playful collection featuring graphic T-shirts, zip-up hoodies, shorts, bomber jackets, dresses, denim and even sneakers.

The 25-piece collection is described as “more is más,” by the brand, more colour, more collage, more patchwork and more mixing, with a celebration of “excess, embellishment, boldness and punk”.

The whole capsule is colourful, creative and bold, from zip-up hoodies and shorts covered in sequins to a bomber jacket embellished with ribbons to a preppy blazer and matching shorts in Vichy checks of different colours and sizes with stitched-on patches.

This is a celebration of both Hartig and Desigual, with other statement pieces including colourful mosaics of prints collaged onto a dress, blouse, skirt, body and hat to round off the fun and whimsical collection.

Desigual x Johnson Hartig launches in March

Commenting on why Desigual wanted to collaborate with Hartig, Guillem Gallego, chief marketing officer of Desigual, told FashionUnited: “For Desigual, the most important thing is to work with artists and designers who share our values and purpose. We love collaborating with people who like us, want to convey optimism and positive energy.

“Since the beginning, Desigual has been known for its unique and distinctive designed that are made the people who wore the stand out. This is what we seek. We love to learn from our collaborations, to step out and experience new things. This collaborative work teaches us a lot and we believe it brings innovation and freshness to our collaboration.”

Libertine founder Johnson Hartig discusses his creative process, what’s next for his label, as well as designing fashion for his dog Flower

Image: Desigual

FashionUnited chatted to Hartig over e-mail about collaborating with Desigual, the inspiration for the capsule collection, his design process, what keeps driving his creativity, whether Libertine will return to the catwalk, as well as his advice for the next generation of fashion talent.

Can you talk me through the inspiration for your Desigual X Johnson Hartig capsule collection?

Yes, the inspiration is not so different than my usual inspiration for Libertine. I always like historical references and I thought that with Desigual being a Spanish company, it would be interesting to try to bring some of that into play. We did this ruffled skirt, for instance, and the ruffled pareo reminded me of Flamenco dancers’ skirts and such. But it’s always art inspirations, always historical inspirations, always nature inspirations. We did this jacket with patches about protecting the planet; baby birds in their nests, planting trees...so not dissimilar from my regular Libertine inspirations.

What was your creative process when it came to combining your aesthetic with that of Desigual?

Well, Desigual is known for vibrant patterns and colour, much as Libertine is, so it was a joy to know that I could really go as wild as I wanted with print and colour. My designs are actually more subdued than many of Desigual’s usually are. You’ll see we did this incredible patchwork print that was bright but not super oversaturated.

What draws you to bold colours and statement detailing such as ribbons, patchwork, and sequins?

I’m a mockingbird. I’m drawn to anything shiny and always have been. I remember as a child loving shiny things and it just hasn’t stopped. We were one of the first to bring sequins back, ten or twelve years ago, by doing these sequin tracksuits with athletic trim that everyone from Gucci to high street shops knocked off. So, I’ve always loved sequins, and I love night-dressing for day and day-dressing for night, and preppy versus punk and a real DIY attitude and aesthetic.

You founded Libertine in 2001 – what keeps driving you forward?

At this point, it’s too late to stop! Twenty years on and we’re in a good position, so we’re now looking for investment and at some point, hopefully selling the company.

After investing this much of my life into it, I want to end up with something, after all, so we’re working towards that and expanding. Our business is stronger than it ever has been, so that’s a real motivating force – money, money, money!

What’s next for Libertine? Can we expect a return to the catwalk?

I don’t know. I love shooting these videos that we’ve been doing during the pandemic. We do them in our studio in Hollywood, California on two iPhones and we edit them on our computers. There are no costs involved, except for what we pay the models, but compared to a runway show it’s nothing. We’re getting more attention for videos than we often did for the runway shows. New York was so oversaturated with shows that it was hard to compete if you’re not one of the billion-dollar brands that roll in and do these spectacular shows. We just don’t have that kind of a budget. We’re very fortunate to have some incredibly loyal sponsorship, but I don’t know if that’s even still available after the pandemic. Quite honestly, I’m loving the creative aspect, and again, the DIY aesthetic of doing it all on our iPhones.

How did you get into fashion?

My grandmother taught me how to sew on my mother’s 1950s Singer sewing machine. Since the late 70s and early 80s, with punk going on, I wanted to buy things at Goodwill and other thrift stores and be able to do simple alterations, to be able to wear anything I found. My grandmother taught me how to do this straight stitch, which is still all I know how to do today. I watched Style with Elsa Klensch on CNN in the 80s, very early on Saturday mornings. I would say Elsa Klensch was my fashion school. I studied painting and drawing in school, not fashion, so I don’t know how to actually make a garment but there are people around who can help me with that.

Desigual also champions young designers – do you have any advice for anyone aspiring to get into fashion?

Yes! Run – don’t walk – the other way. No, I’m not half kidding. It’s a tough business.

We’ve been lucky from day one and made money from day one, but we had a really interesting formula; using recycled things that we paid nothing for, altering them then silk-screening them and selling them at really expensive prices. I don’t know that this formula would work, and it only worked for a limited time for us because we just couldn’t keep up with the vintage stuff after a while. If your heart is set on it, obviously go for it, but it’s so much f***ing work and the payback isn’t always what you’d think. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle, it’s a working lifestyle, you’re going to be married to our business and very few make it. Having said all that, I’m so pleased that at this point twenty years later we’re still thriving and really doing better than ever, but it’s a tough business.

A little silly one, but dog fashion is becoming a hot trend – would you consider doing a capsule collection for your cute dog Flower?

Yes, we are actually in talks about doing a dog collection with a major pet retailer. Flower has been with me for a year and a half and is just the joy of my life. Libertine has always supported rescue dog foundations. We do a lot of work with rescue dog associations and raise money, and it would be such an honour to dress them.

The Desigual x Johnson Hartig collection launches March 1 at select Desigual stores and its e-commerce.

Collaboration
DESIGUAL
Johnson Hartig
Libertine