The illustrator and fashion maverick Antonio Lopez was an extraordinary legendary cultural figure in the 1970’s whose name will hardly resound at all with most people these days, but to a whole clique of the famous fashion and creative souls who lined up to be interviewed for this new documentary, he was nothing less than a God.
Born in Puerto Rico in 1943, Lopez grew up in the Bronx alongside Juan Ramos his childhood friend who would become his collaborator and ‘partner’ for the rest of his life. Lopez got his start when he studied at Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) but then when he was discovered during an internship at Women’s Wear Daily .he left school to work for them.
It was, however, his stunning unique work for ELLE that not only started to get Lopez noticed but also completely turned the world of fashion illustrating upside down. He collected a coterie of other creatives that he loved to hang out including make-up artist Corey Tippen and the photographer Bill Cunningham (who died in 2016 soon after filming of this doc was finished), but he also attracted and discovered beauties who would go on to be very successful in their own rights like Jessica Lange, Grace Jones, Pat Cleveland, Tina Chow, Donna Jordan and Patti D’Abbenville.
In 1969 Lopez and his tight band of followers flew to Paris and were taken under the wing of Karl Lagerfeld who was so enthralled with them and their work he lent Lopez and Ramos his rather grand apartment to live in. Summers in Saint Tropez with Lagerfeld followed for the Lopez ‘clique and included others that he ‘discovered’ like the 17 year-old-Jerry Hall who became Lopez’s fiance for a short time.
As keen as all of his friends were to line up for director James Crump’s camera for this documentary to talk about Lopez’s genius, all of them, men and women alike regaled stories of how sexually driven Lopes was, flitting from a constant stream of boys to girls with great ease. It would seem that all of them fell in love with him and his abundant flow of charm at some time or another.
Lopez’s prime was at a time when the fashion industry was being revolutionized as the old world of couture was being replaced by the exciting new world of ready-to-wear, and he played an important role in how that was all presented and perceived to the world. It was an era where outsize talent and larger-than-life personalities like Lopez were not just recognized but positively adored.
It was an exciting period which sadly all came crashing down when the AIDS epidemic took hold, and Lopez, working until the very end, died of it in 1987 aged just 44, Ramos his partner survived him until 1995 when he also died of AIDS.
Crump’s very affectionate profile is a fitting tribute to an iconic queer genius who many of us may never have heard off beforehand but will be grateful that we now have had such an excellent chance to redress that.