Rizzoli Launches a Lavish New Book Documenting the Life and Work of Fashion Great Antonio Lopez
At a time when photography had replaced illustration as the preferred form of presenting fashion in publications, Antonio Lopez’s immense talent, creativity, sensibility and vision as an artist/illustrator ushered in a second Golden Age of the form. From the 1960s into the 1980s, the Puerto Rican native changed not only the pages of fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar but also the nightlife and art scenes of Paris and New York. In association with his long-time partner, Juan Ramos, he created a brand that became a major force in fashion, and whose influence is still felt today.
Now, a major celebration of his work is being published by Rizzoli: Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco ($65), written by Roger and Mauricio Padilha, founders of MAO PR and MAO Mag, and the authors of The Stephen Sprouse Book. The 300-page monograph also features contributions by André Leon Talley and Anna Sui, as well as countless lavishly presented examples of Antonio’s work.
The first among his peers, Antonio is credited with the invention—as fashion wear—of hot pants, hip-huggers, chain belts, the Retro Hollywood Glamour Look, oversized jewelry, athletic wear, mohawk haircuts, Afros, body paints/tattoos, pierced ears for men, and the Mad Max Punk Look, all of which he featured in his illustrations before they made an appearance on the runways of Europe and New York and became part of the accepted fashion vernacular. His work inspired Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld and Norma Kamali in the creation of some of their most successful collections, as well as dozens of art directors, fashion stylists and hair and makeup artists. Today his influence can be seen in the designs of Anna Sui, Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton Men, among many others.
In Paris, he discovered and launched the careers of Jessica Lange, Grace Jones, Tina Chow and Jerry Hall.
Antonio was (and still is) the youngest illustrator ever hired by WWD. His work for top fashion publications along with his ad campaigns for major houses and department stores changed the industry, for beyond merely presenting clothes in his illustrations, his art showcased fashion as a lifestyle. He was the first to use women of color as his models, breaking the race barrier. In Paris, he discovered and launched the careers of Jessica Lange, Grace Jones, Tina Chow and Jerry Hall. In collaboration with Italian Vogue’s Anna Piaggi, Antonio started the magazine Vanity, whose forward-looking editorial content and layout strongly influenced, once again, the key fashion players of the period. Before Studio 54, Antonio and his Americans coterie revolutionized and reinvigorated the staid and predictable nightlife of Paris by making Club Sept that city’s nocturnal epicenter, where Fashion, Society, Art, Beauty and Money came together for the first time.
Over the years Antonio and Juan made many friends. I am lucky and blessed to have been among them. Their kindness and generosity were boundless, and they were a lot of fun, too. We were introduced in Paris by a mutual friend and later reconnected in New York during the ’70s. In 1985, Antonio and Juan told me about their new book, Antonio’s Tales From the Thousand and One Nights, and seeing the galleys blew me away. At the time I was commuting between New York and Miami, and was involved with the new Miami Book Fair. I asked Mitchell Kaplan, co-director of the fair at that time, if I could invite Antonio and Juan to present their new book at the event, and he loved the idea. Their lectures and workshops during the fair were standing room only, and the book sold out. Fran Lebowitz was also a guest author that year, and when I picked her up at the airport the first thing she asked was, “Where’s Antonio?” The boys loved Miami and took an apartment at the Helen Mar on South Beach. Over the next year it was always a pleasure when they came for a visit. The last time I saw Antonio was in December 1986. Juan called me to tell me Antonio was not doing well. I flew to New York right away to spend time with them. Antonio passed away in March 1987, and Juan in November 1995, both from AIDS complications. I miss my friends.
LOUIS CANALES: Kids, I love your new book on Antonio. Congratulations. I ordered my copy the moment [the book’s art director] Marc Balet told me about it in the spring. A few weeks ago, Joey Arias did a post on his Facebook page about it. The buzz is super. So why a book on Antonio at this time?
ROGER PADILHA: Well, Antonio’s work has always seemed timeless to us, so it was never a question of when to launch the book. But it does seem apropos that both Anna Sui and Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton did collections based on Antonio while we were finishing it up, so there is definitely something in the air!
MAURICIO PADILHA: We did feel, however, that there was a certain way we wanted to do this book and also a specific target audience. People over the age of 40 working in the fashion industry will certainly love this book, but we really wanted to do something that speaks to a new generation of designers and artists who don’t know who Antonio was. So we tried to look at Antonio’s work with a fresh eye and see the things that we knew would be attractive to a new audience.
LC: Which of you came up with the idea?
RP: We have both been huge Antonio fans since we were kids, and after we finished our Stephen Sprouse book, it just seemed like the perfect follow-up. When you do a book, you are basically devoting two years to your subject, so you have to really love and believe in the project because it is such a commitment.
LC: You cover Antonio’s stellar career as a major fashion force in wonderful detail. Is there a specific period that stands out for you?
MP: Well, that’s the thing about Antonio: He was able to embody each of the three decades in which he worked. There really isn’t a time period that stands out above the others. Whatever was going on, Antonio was able to capture and translate it perfectly.
LC: Antonio has been an inspiration to countless people over the years, and you are both key players on the fashion scene today. How has Antonio’s legacy influenced you?
RP: The most profound parallel between Antonio’s life and ours is that Antonio loved his work and lived it. Similarly, we don’t think something is worth doing unless you love it, and this sense has to trump all other considerations such as monetary gain. If we are not passionate about a project, then we both know it is not worth doing, and Antonio was the same way.
LC: Before reading your book, I did not know the full details about his relationship with Jerry Hall in Paris, or that his friendship with photographer Bill Cunningham started in the ’60s. In conducting your research, did you discover any facts about Antonio that impressed or surprised you?
MP: What was most surprising was Antonio’s desire to be taken seriously as an artist, and feeling that being accepted in the art world was more valid than being accepted in the fashion world. But that’s a sign of the times: He certainly would have been (and is) allowed entree into both worlds today. We don’t think that fashion is considered the ‘lesser’ art as it once was.
LC: Choosing the images to accompany the text of the book must have been a daunting experience. There’s so much to choose from and all of it is flawless. How difficult was it for you to make the final choices, and how did you choose them?
RP: Again, we really wanted to look at the work with a new perspective for a new generation. Also, we wanted to showcase the process and life behind the work. Antonio was not the type of artist who holed himself up in his studio night and day. He went out every night and had a full life that really translated back onto the page. So it was important for us to include diaries and behind-the-scene photos, and also tell the story of Antonio and his entourages.
LC: I know you are both on overdrive at this time with preparations for Fashion Week, so one last question: Will there ever be another Antonio?
Available at Books and Books, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Bal Harbour and MIA.
All above photos and illustrations from Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco (Rizzoli) by Roger Padilha and Mauricio Padilha. Copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.