"Punk" and "positivity" were the buzzwords behind Johnson Hartig's Spring '14 Libertine collection, which fused rebellious, DIY sentiments with his brand's bejeweled motifs and phrases—most of which were in French. Backstage after the show, the designer said that this season his outré embellishments were meant to serve as "amulets protecting from negativity." They ranged from the label's signature skulls to sprigs of coral, as well as a kaleidoscopic array of abstract shapes that turned up on chiffon frocks, shiny men's blazers, and voluminous, tactile overcoats.
For a brand known for its color play, there was a lot of black this season, and Hartig's vivid muchness seemed to pop best against that hue. A few busily printed blazers and dresses devoured the intricate beading and appliqué, and two bohemian yellow and pink maxis were a little off-message. So, too, was the opening jumpsuit, whose white and cobalt horizontal stripes could hardly be considered a flattering choice for anyone but a catwalker. A wine-colored swing coat with heavy beading and a corded neck and sleeves, however, offered the kind of over-the-top but wearable drama that the Libertine customer craves. And a series of tailored looks en noir, like a slim men's suit printed with the phrase "Love Oui Non" in white, and bejeweled sheaths and overcoats for her, merged an air of savvy sophistication with the designer's affinity for kitsch. Same goes for a black dress with tiers of sheer, embellished overlay. Paired with an embroidered, tasseled shawl, it was witchy fun.
As for the punk elements, which surfaced via a men's bondage jacket and a riff on Vivienne Westwood's iconic QE2 print that read, "God Save the Libertine, Original DIY Only," Hartig justified them by explaining that he is, in fact, a former punk. "It's just a concept that's near and dear to my heart," he said. At the risk of sounding like a stereotypical fashionista, those bits felt a touch last season. That being said, an embellished bomber—which was worn by one of the boys but will no doubt appeal to Hartig's female fans—was indeed befitting an onstage hooligan. And while it might be more likely to appeal to a rocker of the glam variety, it was a clear standout.