February 10, 1943 – Antonio Lopez
Antonio Lopez was an amazing, innovative fashion illustrator whose work appeared frequently in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Interview and The NY Times and whose works were exhibited in minor galleries all over the world. You might recognize his work. Several books of his illustrations have been published.
Not many fashion illustrators could count Jessica Lange, Grace Jones, Jerry Hall, Karl Lagerfeld, Mick Jagger, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol, Paloma Picasso, Marisa Berenson and Marlene Dietrich as their best buds.
He helped nudge the trend away for photography as the dominant medium in fashion media. This was through sheer talent. In his work, with his trademark whooshes of lines, and the confident, sexy poses of the models he depicted gave illustration a second coming. He gave fans a Technicolor world populated by a glamorous cast of ”Antonio Girls”.
Lopez was born in Puerto Rico. He moved with his family to Spanish Harlem in 1950 where he began making drawings as a child for his mother who was a seamstress and dressmaker. In the early 1960s, he enrolled in a course at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in NYC where he met Juan Ramos. While a student at FIT he participated in a work-study program at Women’s Wear Daily where his talent was immediately recognized. He was offered a job at WWD and dropped out of FIT before joining The NYC Times in 1963 where his style continued to develop.
Lopez lived his life to the fullest, with glamour, decadence, creativity and fun at the center of everything he did. He worked hard and played hard, drawing in the morning and hitting the discos at night.
His longtime partner Ramos continued as his collaborator after their romantic relationship ended in 1970. Lopez had an affair with Jerry Hall in the early 1970s, after they met when they both were modeling in Paris. Entranced, he put posters around the city asking the American girl to call him.
The ideal for female beauty in the 1970s was a kind of athletic, wholesome girl-next-door types like Cheryl Tiegs and Cybil Shepard, but Lopez was looking for something more unusual. He made friends with downtown girls such as Donna Jordan and Jane Forth, ethereal young women with gap-toothed grins and plucked eyebrows. Among his main muses was Pat Cleveland, one of the first major black models, plus designer Tina Chow, Jones; Lange and Hall. His look was so different from the American ideal that Lopez and company moved to Paris in 1969, living in Lagerfeld’s apartment, hanging out with the designer and going to the clubs every night. It was such a scene that Warhol made a film about it, L’Amour (1973) starring Jordan and Lagerfeld.
Lopez and Ramos saw a future where race wouldn’t matter. They pushed against the notion that they couldn’t choose the models they wanted to use, and Paris was more open.
In Paris, he started to get commissions from all the leading fashion magazines and contributed several pages of drawings in a Paris issue of Warhol’s Interview Magazine. He stayed in Paris for seven years, during which time he introduced many facets of American Pop Culture to the French. Lopez and Ramos returned to NYC in 1975 and set up a studio in Lower Manhattan. Three years later they moved into a space on Union Square West.
In the 1982, he and Ramos published a book of his drawings, Antonio Girls, containing sensuous color illustrations and line drawings. This book was followed in 1985 by Antonio’s Tales Of 1001 Nights. They were both bestsellers.
He worked with a variety of materials including pencil, pen and ink, charcoal, watercolors and Polaroid film. He signed his work simply ”Antonio”.
An artist who was constantly changing his flamboyant style influenced the work of other fashion illustrators that came after him, Lopez also designed advertising campaigns for companies all over the globe, including a trend-setting series of advertisements for Bloomingdale’s in the 1980s.
Lopez was taken by the plague in 1987. He was just 44 -years-old. Ramos died from HIV in 1995.
In the last 10 years of his life, Lopez became interested in education and devoted much of his time to giving lectures and workshops to students of fashion illustration in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
He is the subject of film, Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion and Disco, which features Lange and Hall, along with the late great, much-loved street style photographer Bill Cunningham, a lifelong friend of Lopez. In 1966 Lopez gave Cunningham his first camera. The film’s director, James Crump:
”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 were advocating that as early as the mid-1960s.”
Lopez accompanied Hall for a 1975 shoot in Jamaica. In the film, there is a scene where Hall arrives at the airport, during a Jamaican summer, dressed in a full-length fur coat. Such things made sense to an ”Antonio girl”.
The Antonio Lopez Foundation raises funds for HIV/AIDS research and education through photography auctions. It was founded in 1987 by publisher Hossein Farmani in memory of Lopez and Ramos.
Lopez’s work is featured at the Society Of Illustrators in association with the Leslie Lohman Gay Art Foundation.
Students at the Fashion Institute of Technology request his name at the library more than any other.
In 2014, MAC Cosmetics launched a campaign dedicated to Lopez. The ads featured Jerry Hall, Pat Cleveland and Marisa Berenson.
Last year, an exhibit, Antonio Lopez: Future Funk Fashion, was shown at El Museo del Barrio in NYC.