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Antonio Lopez, Party Pant Suit (1966)
Antonio Lopez, Party Pant Suit (1966)Courtesy of The Antonio Archives

Antonio Lopez is the fashion illustrator at the heart of 1970s hedonism

The influential fashion illustrator who ‘transformed’ Jerry Hall and Grace Jones, and whose work inspired collections by Anna Sui and Chloé, is celebrated in a new exhibition, Drawing on Style

You may not have heard of Antonio Lopez, but you’ve most definitely encountered his legacy – still visible in the creations of those inspired by his exquisite artwork (designer Anna Sui, Hannah MacGibbon for Chloé, and manga artist Hirohiko Araki are just a few of the fashion and art world figures who’ve cited him as a direct influence). Lopez is the fashion illustrator revered by those in the know, whose career charted a course through the upper echelons of the fashion, art, and media revolution in the 1960s and 70s.

As one of the original masters of the genre, the trajectory of Lopez’s story touches upon extraordinary moments during the latter half of the last century, crossing paths with some of the most iconic – and iconoclastic – personalities from the hedonistic world of high fashion in New York in the 70s. Grace Jones, Karl Lagerfeld, Grace Coddington, Jerry Hall, and Bill Cunningham are just a few of the era’s burgeoning talents drawn into the orbit of the magnetic New York-Puerto Rican illustrator.

Drawing on Style is a new exhibition celebrating rare and unseen fashion illustrations spanning post-war artworks of the 1940s to the present day. Launched at London’s GrayMCA’s gallery to coincide with London Fashion Week, the group show features some of Antonio Lopez’ most seminal illustrations alongside the work of masters such as Dior’s current artist-in-residence, Bil Donovan, and renowned chronicler of 50s couture, René Gruau.

With his lifelong partner and collaborator, Juan Ramos, the prolific pair worked together as “Antonio”, creating a new visual language in fashion illustration. Paul Caranicas from The Antonio Archives told Dazed, “Not content with simply illustrating clothing for their clients, they invented new ways of seeing, discovering people, exploring photography, sampling art movements of the past and present… Antonio and Juan’s artwork pushed the boundaries of fashion illustration and pioneered a new vision of American multiculturalism during a post-modern moment where art, fashion, and queer culture collided into one.” He continues, “As a cultural figure, Antonio Lopez really epitomised the ‘artist as celebrity’. He was extremely energetic, enigmatic, and social.” 

Devon Caranicas, also speaking to us from The Antonio Archives, elaborated on the celebrity culture surrounding the artist and his notable muses – dubbed ‘Antonio’s Girls’ and including the likes of Pat Cleveland, Grace Jones, Tina Chow, Jessica Lange, and Jerry Hall. “Similar to Warhol’s superstars, ‘Antonio’s Girls’ is a nebulous network of friends, models, and creatives who Antonio adored. It originates from a 1974 article in Esquire magazine by art director Jean-Paul Goude titled, ‘Rags by the Trades: Girls by Antonio’ which looked at a handful of models Antonio had discovered, so to speak... The concept from that era was that Antonio ‘transformed’ these women from aspiring models into the edgy, fashion-forward muses in his drawings.” She adds, “It would also be fair to say that alongside Antonio’s Girls there exists a whole group of Antonio’s Boys, but this has yet to be explored.”

For a look at some of the work by Antonio on display in the current exhibition take a look through the gallery above.

Drawing On Style is running at London’s MCA Gallery until September 26, and continuing in their Bath gallery space from October 18 until October 20 2021