February 18, 2009
Johnson Hartig and Cindy Greene returned to New York fashion week with as serious a case of Anglomania as they've ever had. Guests at their scenic presentation in Soho were greeted by a (shivering) Royal Guard and clothes screen-printed with the visage of Queen Elizabeth II. (Liz was drawn by California artist Eric Ernest Johnson, whose work Hartig collects. Johnson also contributed images of Rasputin and the party scene from The Shining.) Hartig, who said he felt "propelled by the economy to be more creative," might have worried that if Libertine stayed away too long people would forget them—but he and his design partner got as warm a Big Apple welcome as they did when they first hit the scene with their repurposed vintage clothing eight years ago.
Fall was presented in a hay-strewn space on models wearing both production-line pieces and one-offs, which are the heart of the label. Watch your back, Rugby: Libertine's school-tie blazers looked like cult items right out of the gate to us, especially when emblazoned with crest patches featuring subversive motifs like a swan with a broken neck, a dead fish floating among beer cans and cigarette butts, and a certain part of the male anatomy standing at attention. "We wanted to turn the fussy, Waspy world upside down," Hartig said. Mission accomplished.