“ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX FASHION & DISCO”— Exhilarating and Outrageous Fashion History

“ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX FASHION & DISCO”

Exhilarating and Outrageous Fashion History

Amos Lassen

Filmmaker James Crump  gives us a time capsule of the decadent world of 1970s haute couture as seen through the eyes of Antonio Lopez, the dominant fashion illustrator of the time whose distinctive drawings made the pages of high fashion magazines. He is Puerto Rican native who was raised in the Bronx and became an arbiter of style and glamour who brought urban street elements to a postwar fashion world that wanted and needed change and diversity. Antonio’s discoveries include Grace Jones, Jessica Lange and Jerry Hall. His inner circle was made up of celebrated photographer Bill Cunningham and designers Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Here we get a vivid portrait of Antonio Lopez and the fashion world he helped to create.

Through the use of archival footage and stills of studio life in Carnegie Hall, infamous places such as Max’s Kansas City and Hotel Chelsea and original interviews with principal characters from the time, Crump takes us back to the swinging seventies when fashion designers and their entourages were on equal footing with rock stars. We have interviews with Lange, Pat Cleveland, Warhol superstars Donna Jordan, Jane Forth and Patti D’Arbanville, as well as revered fashion photographer Bill Cunningham in his last interview, and fashion world luminaries including Grace Coddington, Joan Juliet Buck, Michael Chow, Bob Colacello, Corey Tippin, and Paul Caranicas, among others. The film captures Lopez and his entourage, on their journey for beauty and pleasure before the end of the decade that was filled with drug use, addiction and sexual promiscuity.  Lopez was an extremely physical creator and he was kind, a term we do not usually hear in the world of fashion. We actually feel a sense of celebration when we watch.

The late great Bill Cunningham is seen here in his last on-camera interview. The New York Times photographer, who found Lopez and his art director and creative partner Juan Ramos an apartment in Carnegie Hall  talks about their close friendship while tears come to his eyes. Cunningham was the one who introduced Lopez to couturier Charles James (the inspiration for Daniel Day-Lewis’s character in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread”) and his obese beagle Sputnik. We learn from Pat Cleveland, what Lopez was like at Parsons in 1968 and what went on around the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park. Grace Coddington explains how much Antonio was influenced by people on the street and that drawing was his “narrative fantasy.” She calls him an “amazing stylist” who taught her a lot.

We learn about the no-eyebrow look and we hear about the competing tables at Max’s Kansas City, where Antonio, Juan, and their muses rivaled Andy Warhol’s corner in style and flair. Antonio adored selecting looks for his friends. Jessica Lange recalls her infatuation – “and when I say I had a crush on him, I mean it!” She remembers fondly how “he loved to dress me up and then we’d go out.” The gang moved from New York to Paris, continued the feast with Lagerfield  who was eager to soak up new inspiration while working at Chloé. The difference between the cities, was that the Americans throw parties for people, “the French give dinner parties against someone.” The fun doesn’t seem to end  until it does.

From Grace Jones to Jerry Hall, everyone admits to having fallen under Lopez’s spell. Antonio Lopez was one of the most influential people in the fashion world, although almost no one outside it has heard of him. And this documentary is designed to change that. It’s a lively, skillfully assembled portrait of a vibrant artist whose life and work made an indelible and tremendous mark not just within fashion circles but in pop culture as well.

Lopez was notorious for sleeping with both men and women, and he had an eye for outsiders who could become new icons in the industry. It’s fascinating to see him working with young women and blurring friendship and professionalism. And of course, there are darker corners in his story, as he struggled with dry creative spells and bristled against the games within the fashion world.

This material is put together with a snappy sense of pace, zooming through Lopez’ life while also looking at what was happening in the world at the time. We see this in the complex twists and turns of his longtime relationship with Ramos, as his creative outbursts parallel the free love movement. His death at age 44 in 1987 reflects the realities of America’s horrific AIDS epidemic (Ramos died eight years later). Crump brings out the emotionality of these events without indulging in sentimentality. Lopez was a revolutionary force in both the art and fashion worlds, bringing them together and pushing both of them forward. And the fact that the world lost him so young can’t help but raise the question of how he might have changed it even further had he beat AIDS and survived.

BONUS FEATURES include:

  • Rare archival Footage
  • Bill Cunningham Interview Excerpts
  • Bonus Short Film –“You Can’t Do Everything at Once, But You Can Leave Everything at Once” (Directed by Marie-Elsa Sgualdo | Switzerland | 15 minutes) — A mesmerizing and fantastic tale of a young woman’s life constructed from a variety of archival footage. 

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