NYFW: LIBERTINE F/W 2014

One of the great things about Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, New York, is that it is so large and all-encompassing that one is likely to find at least one designer that fits their taste, no matter what one’s taste may be. After all, style is a very individual thing and it would be unreasonable to expect any one designer, or even a small set of designers, to meet the creative needs of everyone.

Even when expressing creativity through their designs, the majority of designers work within a set of parameters that they know are likely to be well accepted by department store buyers and their core demographic. Then, there is always one or two labels that make their mark by being so very far outside the norm that they cannot be ignored. In New York, that label is Libertine.

When prepping for a Libertine show, one has to alter their expectation for aesthetics, style, and design because what passes as unacceptable most anywhere else is likely to be right on target here. Today’s show was absolutely no exception. I expected wild and got just that.

Actually, the first thing to catch my attention was the brightly colored tights/sock combination all the women are wearing. The socks, which come just to the lower part of the calf, are blue, with split diamonds of red, white, black, darker blue. The tights are black with brush strokes of pink and yellow. Now, that combination alone would be interesting even if it only appeared once in a collection. But this is Libertine, so it appears with every women’s ensemble in the line; pants, dresses, gowns, coats, jumpers … every last piece.

Libertine’s creative director, Johnson Hartig, undoubtedly enjoyed arts and crafts as a child and continues that feel with many of his clothes by embellishing them considerably. At first glance, and I know I made this mistake the first time I saw a Libertine show, it may appear that he has taken some thrift shop clothes and tossed a bunch of sequins, beads, and patches at them. That assumption would be wrong, however. Hartig is just as careful about designing his silhouettes as any other designer and if one cares to pay attention we find that he’s just as much involved with trends, such as the use of velvet, short skirts and (shudder) wrap coats as anyone else.

Men’s wear at Libertine is … uhm … difficult to describe in polite terms. The biggest head scratcher this season is a body suit with spaghetti straps that tie at the shoulders. Would one wear this in winter? The answer is always yes, someone will.

Libertine fashion is fun, graphic, anti-establishment, and maybe even a little avaunt garde. Sure, their audience in the Midwest is small, but I’m sure there are more than a few people who, were situations different, would snap these pieces up in a hurry.

Go ahead. You know you want to.

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