Backstage

  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
  • Images Courtesy of Paul Caranicas. All artwork and photography copyright the Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos.
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An Artist’s Legacy

It’s often said that Antonio Lopez was responsible for elevating the art of fashion illustration. Although Lopez passed away nearly 20 years ago, his work transformed the industry and created a standard to which all others would be compared. Out this month, a new book highlighting his work aims to honor and remember the prolific artist and his contributions to the fashion world.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Harlem, NY, Lopez studied illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology before landing his first job at WWD. From there, his résumé of work would only become more impressive, including The New York Times, Vogue, Vanity Fair and Interview magazine, among many other publications. Bursting into stardom during the ’60s, Antonio would remain a leading figure of the fashion and art world for the next three decades. His influence was undeniable, his talent extraordinary.

“Antonio was really changing the way people look at fashion through his work. He was in touch with the streets and brought a real world aesthetic to what was a gilded cage presentation of fashion,” says Mauricio Padilha, co-author of Antonio Lopez: Fashion, Art, Sex and Disco (Rizzoli, 2012), a complete tome of the artist’s work and life meant to introduce a new age of fashion fans to the work of the great Antonio.

“Rather than just showcase his work, we really wanted to show his process and also relate his work to what was going on at the time socially and culturally,” co-author Roger Padilha explains. “Antonio was very responsive to what was going on outside of the fashion world and would inject that into his work (as any true artist does). We wanted to not only show specific works, but also tie it back to why it was groundbreaking and important at the time.”

Lopez lived a vibrant and exciting life. A regular on the New York nightlife scene, he was always seen socializing with a bevy of beautiful women. As a result, he would be responsible for launching the careers of many models, including Pat Cleveland, Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Donna Jordan and Jane Forth.

In the ’70s, Antonio lived and worked in Paris with his creative partner, Juan Ramos, collaborating with Karl Lagerfeld on illustrations for Chloé and hanging out with close pal Andy Warhol. It was this interaction of friends that would lead a young André Leon Talley—now a contributing editor at Vogue—to meet the celebrated artist. Talley’s reaction to his first contact with Antonio could only be described as “instant admiration,” he says. Like so many, Talley was in awe of Lopez’s talent, and would work with him on many future projects.

“Antonio's work will always impact and influence, not only for his technique, but for his unique tone,” Talley tells us. “He was tuned into his culture, his times, the music, the wonder [and] the style of the moment. It will always be inspirational and influential…When you think about it, everything he created remains due to his excellent draftsmanship and his inner genius of expression, an expression of freedom and celebration of life.”

Lopez’s work would continue to affect many, including designer Anna Sui who grew up with images of Antonio’s work plastered across the walls of her childhood bedroom. Sui used Antonio’s work and life to inspire her Spring 2012 ready to wear collection.

“I’m from the generation that came to New York to meet their idols, and in my case it was Andy Warhol and Antonio Lopez,” Sui says. “They were the ones who shaped the look of fashion and the arts. Antonio dominated the period when I was becoming interested in pursuing my dream of become a fashion designer. His work inspired me—not only his drawings and photos, but his character, spirit, optimism, kindness and joie de vivre.”

Lopez passed away on March 18, 1987, at the young age of 44, and is fondly remembered by the many people he touched through his long and illustrious career. Very few know him as well as his protégé, Alvaro. Having spent so much time working with and learning from the illustrator, Alvaro can attest to the strength of character that Antonio possessed along with his ferocious talent that was almost indescribable to witness firsthand.

“There was something magical about him,” says Alvaro. “He was not a normal person when he drew. He became a human animal. The whole room, everything would just stop. You had to be there to see it. It was absolutely brilliant.”

- JACKIE HYMAN
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