Long before “wokeness” made its way into the national lexicon, the seminal fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez was a prominent champion of introducing diverse models into the fashion industry. Throughout the 1970s, his dynamic, hypnotic fashion illustrations made their way into big-name magazines, and his affinity for non-white, non-cis, non-het folks allowed many marginalized people to be represented. Lopez was also credited for saving fashion illustration from extinction, as it had waned in popularity since the advent of fashion photography in the late ’30s.
For these reasons and more, a new documentary titled Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco has chronicled Lopez’s life using found footage and interviews with luminaries like Jessica Lange, Grace Jones, and Karl Lagerfeld (Lopez’s best friend.)
“Everybody at that time got swept into Antonio’s world,” says Lange at one point. “There was something magical about it. He had this way of bringing joy into people’s lives.”
The illustrator/photographer is credited with launching the modeling careers of Jerry Hall, Jane Forth, Pat Cleveland, Grace Jones, among others.
As the documentary notes, Lopez dated both men and women during his heyday, and included many queer-friendly references in his work. In addition to referencing Grace Jones‘ wild haircuts and Josephine Baker’s famous banana skirt, Lopez paid homage to cult films like The Wild One, a leather daddy fever dream starring Marlon Brando. (It’s technically a movie about a motorcycle gang, but “leather daddy fever dream” is more accurate.)
Unfortunately, Lopez passed away at 44 due to AIDS complications, but Antonio Lopez 1970 does a lovely job of invoking his spirit. With his understated mustache, soft curls, and inquisitive eyes, Lopez is a lingering presence after the film. With any luck, the film will also bring renewed attention to Lopez’s consistently inspiring and delightful illustrations.
Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco is currently playing the film festival circuit. The film had its North American premiere earlier this week as part of DOC NYC.