Johnson Hartig hopes his vibrant designs displayed on the Royal Poinciana Plaza’s surfboard holiday tree remind people to “Lib it up” this holiday season.
The designer and founder of Libertine, a fashion label based in Los Angeles, showcased his unique style Thursday evening with the unveiling of the plaza’s 30-foot surfboard installation.
Featuring "all things that are near and dear to our hearts" and that "would resonate in Palm Beach," the design combines realism and whimsy, Hartig said.
The holiday tree, which will be on display until Jan. 2, comprises 50 surfboards, each a representation of colors, patterns, prints and embellishments that he uses in his designs.
During the reveal event, guests wearing original Libertine designs — patchwork-quilt dresses, screen-printed skulls on vintage bomber jackets and celestial crystal blazers — admired the tree; decorated surfboard-shaped cookies with their children; and posed with Santa Claus, who was sporting a shirt with the message #LIBITUP. To "Lib it up" means to express one's individual style through colors and prints, representatives said.
Hartig’s designs are distinguished by embellishments, graphics, screen printing and crystal designs inspired by his interest in history, travel, culture and fluorescence microscopy, according to his website.
On the boards were Hamish Floral, a lavender print inspired by florist Hamish Powell, as well asa print called Robert Burns; but rather than featuring a poem by its namesake, the board reads “Palm Beach Love.” The surfboards also displayed Libertine collages featuring Hartig's rescue dog Flower, and "classic" Palm Beach colors — turquoise, pink and green.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, Libertine’s edgy and urban feel has garnered the support of fashion icons Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld and Hamish Bowles.
According to its website, the California-based fashion brand’s clientele includes Mick Jagger, Cher, Future, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Usher, Britney Spears and Taylor Swift, as well as Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bette Midler and Catherine Deneuve.
Hartig is credited with "rewriting the rules" of ready-to-wear fashion after partnering with British artist Damien Hirst, and familiar brands such as Converse and Target for its GO International line in 2007, according to his website.
This year marks the first time the tree was designed by someone in the fashion industry.
Dana Filetti, the plaza’s marketing director, and Lori Berg, its manager, led the team that picked the tree's designer. Choosing someone from the fashion industry this year “felt right,” and Hartig’s colorful, chaotic and cool designs made him the top contender, Filetti said.
“Everyone has been in work-from-home clothes for the past 18 months," Filetti said. “Johnson is super cool and blends the lines between art, interior design and fashion.”
By turning to more casual apparel during the pandemic, his company prospered, Hartig said.
“Remarkably, we had incredible business all through the pandemic, and it’s been even stronger afterward,” he said. “I think it’s because our clothes always promote a sense of optimism and joy.”
Hartig’s designs go beyond clothing. He said he believes incorporating vibrancy into interior designs gives off the same joyous feelings that can be received from clothing.
“There isn’t a square inch in my house that hasn’t been decorated in some way,” he said.
“To me, it’s completely comforting. I love coming home and feeling comforted. I think it shows a really curious-cultured mind — to have things that you love surrounding you rather than blank white walls.”
Berg said the surfboard trees were not meant to become a tradition when one was first installed in 2017, but they have garnered attention and admiration from residents and visitors alike. That first tree was created by plaza staff.
Last year, the plaza’s tree was designed by New Orleans-based artist Ashley Longshore, who used illustrations of jewels and gemstones to make the town sparkle.
A fine art photographer and author known for his aerial beach photography, Gray Malin used images he captured of Palm Beach, St. Tropez, the Hamptons and other seaside communities for the tree design in 2019.
During the 2018 holiday season, illustrator and pop artist Donald Robertson's tree adaptation featured painted lips in bright colors.
Hartig’s surfboard tree design represents people's desire to dress up and go out again, Berg said, and celebrates Palm Beach fashion.
“To have a fashion designer do it, for me, was a ‘woohoo!’ moment,” she said. “The artists are amazing too, but (Palm Beach) is fashion. We have fashion!”
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Johnson Hartig's Royal Poinciana plaza tree a 'celebration of fashion'