Antonio Lopez: the fashion illustrator who revolutionised the industry
There can’t be many fashion illustrators who can count Jessica Lange, Grace Jones and Karl Lagerfeld as their BFFs, and Jerry Hall as their one-time bae. But Antonio Lopez was special – as the new film, Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion and Disco testifies.
An illustrator who started out in the mid-60s (when he dropped out of college to work for Women’s Wear Daily), the Puerto Rican-born artist bucked the trend for photography as the dominant medium in fashion media. This was through sheer talent. In his work for the New York Times, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, the whooshes of his lines, movement of his drawings and the confident, sexy poses of the models he depicted gave illustration a reboot. It went from an old-fashioned curiosity to a Technicolor world that everyone wanted to occupy, populated by a glamorous cast of “Antonio girls”. Speaking in the film, the former editor of French Vogue Joan Juliet Buck says the illustrator convinced her the “ideal life is lived through a line drawing”.
Lopez lived his life at breakneck speed, putting glamour, decadence, creativity and fun at the heart of everything. Days started and ended late, often at whatever dancing spot played the best disco music at the time. This is all detailed in Sex, Fashion and Disco, with talking heads ranging from Lange and Buck to the much-loved street style photographer Bill Cunningham, a lifelong friend of Lopez, who died shortly after the production of the film ended. The director, James Crump, says that the story of Lopez feels particularly relevant in 2017: “It felt like the right time to do a film, with the political climate as it is at the moment. The fashion world is embracing inclusivity and diversity, and Antonio and Juan [Ramos, Lopez’s longtime collaborator] were advocating that as early as the mid-60s.”