How Elton John, Johnson Hartig and the music biz changed Fashion in LA

The Californian designer found a wider audience for his glitzy thrift-store clothes thanks to LA's recording artists
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Libertine’s Hollywood studio with artist Eric Johnson’s mobiles hanging from the ceiling. As reproduced in Fashion in LA
Libertine’s Hollywood studio with artist Eric Johnson’s mobiles hanging from the ceiling. As reproduced in Fashion in LA

Los Angeles, as Tania Fares writes in the foreword to her book, Fashion in LA, is a city where fashion, film, music, and art co-mingle and thrive. But not every creative in Southern California acknowledges the influences of all four of these industries. Johnson Hartig, founder of LA label Libertine, might have a studio in Hollywood, but he distances himself from the silver screen.

“While his business backs onto a prop house, and his designs espouse cinematic elements, he insists that neither movies nor the industry itself have the real creative energy that he craves,” explains our new book. “Instead, those surges come from trips to India, retreats to Marrakesh, and adventures that take Hartig outside of himself and most fully reveal his true self.”

The result of that creative inspiration found a home within the city's music community, helping Hartig make the jump from a self-described ‘thrift-shop kid’ to a designer of international renown.

“Hartig always had a flare for the extraordinary,” explains Fashion in LA. “’I’d take vintage things apart, and try sewing [them] back together, just creating these incredible things for myself,’ he recalls.

One day, a buyer at LA fashion retailer Maxfield - a go-to spot for the city’s recording artists - saw Hartig wearing a pair of pants he had made, and asked him to ‘Make some for the store.'

Soon after Hartig had dropped off his creations, he received a call to say that Elton John and Michael Stipe had both bought a pair, and that they wanted ten more.

A Vanity Fair story followed, and now Libertine’s creations can be found in the closets of a wide array of musicians from Mick Jagger and Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kiedis through to Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani, and Young Thug.

 

Fashion in LA

Having won over a star following, Hartig is now working on an interiors collaboration with Schumacher, the textile, wallpaper, and rug company. Expect to see a little sparkly, thrift-influenced, highly fashionable styling in the rock star mansions of Los Angeles sometime soon.

For more well-tailored tales from La La Land, get a copy of Fashion in LA here. Going beyond the red carpet to profile more than 40 designers instrumental to its success, it's a who's who of talent, a true insider's guide to the men and women who have put twenty-first century Los Angeles on the world fashion map.


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