Who was both the hottest and coolest fashion illustrator of all time? Without a doubt, Antonio Lopez. A slim Puerto Rican New Yorker with a neat moustache and impeccable style, Lopez linked the world’s most glamorous across two continents from the late 60s up until his passing in 1987.
Now, Lopez’s life is being brought back in director James Crump’s new documentary film, Antonio Lopez 70: Sex Fashion Disco. Crump has previously made docu-films about Robert Mapplethorpe – Black, White, Gray and the Land Art movement – Troublemakers.
“I’m an art historian by training. I’ve been obsessed with Antonio since I was a teenager. I learnt about his work from Interview magazine, when I was in a rural part of Indiana. I started going into the archive nearly 20 years ago – it was in Dumbo, Brooklyn, now it’s in Jersey City. I’ve always been fascinated by what was happening in that particular moment in Lower Manhattan; you might look at this film with the previous two films as a kind of trilogy with the others on the culture of this period,” explains Crump.
In the painstakingly assembled footage, we see the creative process of an artist dubbed the ‘Picasso of Fashion,’ who not only created tens of thousands of photographs, drawings, 8mm and 16mm films and Polaroid’s, but was also personally a major force in shaping the extravagant look of the era.
“Antonio is right there at the forefront – he’s an arbiter of style, someone who is familiar with all of the leading designers, leading collections, and having an influence of certain characters in that scene,” Crump holds. At the time, you couldn’t open an issue of Vogue or Elle without finding Lopez’s dynamic drawings of feline women and handsome men across editorial spreads and campaigns for Missoni, Chloé, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Versace.
In the film we will see much of the iconic ‘Antonio’s Girls’ – Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Donna Jordan, Pat Cleveland, Jessica Lange, Tina Chow – models who were of diverse skin-tones and origins, lean and lithe who oozed verve and spirit and were more likely to dance than walk down the catwalk.
It was Lopez’ expert eye that discovered this set of essential muses, who would also become those of the fashion industry elite. Crump identifies what they had in common: “They were all unusual beauties. As Donna Jordan says in the film, they weren’t your ‘peaches and cream’ models. They were something else – having beauty just wasn’t enough, you had to have an incredible personality, sexiness and a chicness that would appeal to Antonio.”
Moving to Paris in 1968 with his life-long partner, art director Juan Carlos Ramos, Lopez actively cross-pollinated NYC with the wider European fashion scenes. The Saint-Germain apartment where the duo lived had Karl Lagerfeld as a landlord and became the hub of a wild American group, and a natural location for the first French Andy Warhol short L’Amour (1973). Featuring improv acting from Lagerfeld himself and a selection of Antonio’s male and female muses, rare footage from the lost film features in Sex Fashion Disco.
Crump explains, “Juan and Antonio were supposed to appear in the film, but they were called to work in Tokyo. It’s a real pastiche of what’s actually happening in these circles; the meeting of the entourages and their collaborations. It’s a very campy film, the only Warhol film which is about the fashion world. It’s not in circulation but we were able to obtain clips from the Warhol Museum. I think it will be a revelation to many people.”