According to legend, Antonio Lopez drew his first dress at the age of two. And it probably didn’t look like the typical doodle of an everyday kid. Born on the island of Puerto Rico to a father who sculpted Stockman mannequins and a couturier mother, Antonio Lopez was rocked to sleep amidst swathes of fabrics, prints and the hum of sewing machines. In the 1950s his family moved to New York where the Spanish neighbourhood of East Harlem became his new kingdom. With his curly brown hair, moustache and cigarette holder, music was in the blood of this well turned out dandy and extraordinary dancer. After leaving the Fashion Institute of Technology, he’d sketch out the watercolour lines of his models for Women’s Wear Daily, Interview and Vogue to the sounds of Nile Rodgers’ guitar licks. Later on, he’d start photography, his Instamatic always to hand.
Antonio Lopez made striking sketches of top models giving the fashion world a new feminine ideal: an elegant glittering woman, rebellious and ultra-sexy, just like his radiant “Antonio girls” who reigned over the covers of glossy magazines like they would over Instagram today.
Antonio Lopez drew like he breathed, and every exhalation produced another curve. Just occasionally his “black days” prevented him from initiating his artistic trance. As the seventies dawned, the prolific aesthete was 27 years old. At the time it was all about romantic dresses, fringed jackets, flared trousers and ethnic prints. In this dynamic era, hippie met punk, Karl Lagerfeld was making waves in Paris, Kenzo introduced colour and designers were showing female forms in the nude. In the illustrations of performer Antonio Lopez, kitsch, derision and brilliance came crashing together. Drunk on pop art, Egon Schiele’s expressionism, Joan Miro’s surrealism and masterpieces from Art Nouveau, Antonio Lopez produced striking sketches of top models. Compared to René Bouché (1905-1963), the last rebel in illustration caught a monumental sensuality and introduced a new feminine ideal into fashion: an elegant glittering woman, rebellious and ultra-sexy.