Bill Cunningham and Antonio Lopez, New York City, 1978. Photograph by Juan Ramos © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Karl Lagerfeld, Saint-Tropez, 1970. Photograph by Juan Ramos © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Antonio and Nancy North at Café Bonaparte, Paris, 1972. Photograph by Juan Ramos © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Juan Ramos, Paris, 1972. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Antonio Lopez, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, 1971. Photograph by Juan Ramos © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Antonio Lopez, Pat Cleveland and Karl Lagerfeld, Paris, 1970. Photograph by Juan Ramos. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Antonio Lopez, Corey Tippin and Donna Jordan, Saint-Tropez, 1970. Photograph by Juan Ramos. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Carol LaBrie, for Italian Vogue, 1971. Drawing by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Donna Jordan, for 20 Ans, 1970. Drawing by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Eija Vehka Ajo, Juan Ramos, Jacques de Bascher, Karl Lagerfeld and Antonio Lopez, Paris, 1973. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump.
Jerry Hall and Antonio Lopez, Paris, 1972. Photograph by Juan Ramos. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Jessica Lange, Paris, 1974. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Grace Jones (from Candy Bar Girls series), 1977. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Grace Jones (from Black and White Shower series), Paris, 1975. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Tina Chow, London, 1975. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.

ANTONIO LOPEZ: SOMEONE WE ALL WISHED WE COULD HAVE DANCED WITH

There was a time when fashion illustrations used to cover glamorous magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. And although there are several superb fashion illustrator to follow on Instagram, the trade is no longer as prominent and celebrated as it used to be. But of course there are the legends the will live on forever. One in particular comes to mind when thinking of fashion illustration: Antonio Lopez.

The Puerto Rican illustrator took the fashion industry by storm when he stepped on to the seen in the 60s. Not only did he reinvent the art of fashion drawings—him and his partner Juan Ramos worked with everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to The New York Times and Bill Cunningham—he also shook up the dance floor in prestigious clubs around the world charming everyone on his way. Film director, James Crump’s new film explores just that: his new documentary Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco portraits Lopez as quite the enthralling character who we all wished we could have partied (and maybe a bit more) with back in the day.

Our digital director Lars Byrresen Petersen got Crump on the phone to discuss the film prior to it’s NYC premiere today (Friday, November 10, 2017)

LARS:

How did learn about Antonio Lopez?

JAMES:

I was growing-up as a young teenager in rural Indiana which is the Mid-West, you know, the central part of the country. And I became aware of Antonio when I was a teenager through Interview magazine and Interview magazine was kind of my portal to New York city. As a kid, my dream was to live in the city; I really wanted to be in New York and I would just dream about it constantly. Antonio––and other characters too–– but Antonio was a character I latched onto as a young teenager and that resonated for a really long time. About twenty years ago, I met Paul Caranicas–– who was in the film–– who was Juan Ramos’ partner, lover and the heir to Antonio’s estate and he said to me that I was the first person that knocked on his door and wanted to go to the archives.

LARS:

Really?!

JAMES:

Yeah, I was the first person who wanted to go through the archives and consider some projects and I went over to Dumbo, which is where the archive was then, and it was the first of many many multiple hour trips where I would just spend hours looking at Instamatic photographs and drawings and everything that was there; all the artefacts. It was just mind-blowing. It was very arousing, I have to say. It got me very excited about that period and as I said, it made me long for that period and I wasn’t able to participate in it. It took a long time, I didn’t start thinking about making a film until about two or three years ago. And Ronnie Sassoon––my partner, we’re a couple––she urged me to cast it into a film. When I first started going to the archive, I was thinking about a huge monograph book and for a variety of reasons it never happened because one project superseded another and I just never got round to it. Over the years, I’d been collecting lots of stories and I spent loads of time in the archive and did a shoot–– one principal interview in 2008 with Paul and I just shelved it and it never got made. Once I started telling Ronnie about this project and my fascination, really my obsession with Antonio and Juan, it was just natural to do the film so the production didn’t take long. I think it took 15 months of total production time. We worked really fast and once you’re into a film like this, you want to make something really beautiful and really original, but you work obsessively on it and don’t stop working on it until it’s finished; it was a labour of love.

LARS:

Oh yeah, I can imagine.

JAMES:

So that’s how it evolved.

LARS:

And wasn’t it so much fun going through the archives? Did you ever come across an illustration or a photo that really stood out to you?

JAMES:

Oh yeah, it was so thrilling. I mean literally, as I said, it was so thrilling, it was exciting to see. I think what struck me most about my first visit was this time in Lower Manhattan when not just illustrators were hanging out with fashion people, it was this mash of like artists and performance people and musicians and filmmakers. You know, it was a time before like today where people really work in silos and people really are just distinct from each other in terms of their field and specialization, they don’t really have that kind of mix-up any longer. It may be coming back, I think it may be returning subtly, but that’s what struck me most. What I said earlier, it was really arousing. I mean there were moments where there were party pictures and images of these people who just look so sexy and cool and I would be transported through the materials. I love the drawings themselves you know and you were asking about my favorite drawings. Some of my favorite drawings are actually the first ones you see in the film and those are ones that are chiefly 70s drawings. The ones that I really like are a lot of those colorful ones of Donna Jordan. We have a few of those in the early part of the film where she’s wearing a bathing suit, like a bikini and it’s one of the ones that are sitting in that parcel of stills. I also like the line drawings that Antonio did of Jerry Hall, for instance, there you really see his mastery as a draftsman. In the different drawings you see the different elements of Antonio’s power as an illustrator. The ones he did of Jerry are very, very detailed line drawings. Then there are other times, like the Donna Jordan ones, where they’re much faster rendered works that rely on color and aren’t so detailed. I think as you look at the different series, you see the different aspects of his talent. We chose the ones for the film in a tight band of time which was 1968 to 1973. That’s the period that we really wanted to transport the viewer back to, that’s the period that I call this so-called innocent moment in time where anything seemed possible. It was before the seventies came to an end and before it became much darker with AIDS covering the distance and drug use and addiction. That earlier seventies period is a period I think is interesting, it’s a period that’s marked by kind of a manifestation of the things that everyone was fighting for in the late sixties: equality, the sexual revolution, gay rights, civil rights, feminism. All of those things that we were fighting for, people were fighting for in the late sixties and had become a possibility in the early seventies. It’s not a long moment; it’s that slice of time that goes from like 70-74. That’s really what drove the selection of those pictures, but they are still some of my favorite pictures by Antonio.

LARS:

It’s so funny when people describe how he would breathe and his facial expressions would change while he was drawing and then you have actual footage of him doing those things. I couldn’t stop laughing because he really looks like a fish––it’s so funny.

JAMES:

Yeah, it’s so physical, right? And I think that crosses over to sexuality and his physicality and dancing. Those things have got to blend together in his process. It’s almost like the drawing is a climax, it’s almost like like he’s coming. He’s receding the information through his eyes and through his mind and then it’s coming out of his hands. There’s a similar climactic element to that which I love and am fascinated by. Then you talk to people who were there––it’s in the film, it’s in the interview. It’s always fascinating to hear first hand accounts because I never met Antonio so I found that really interesting.

LARS:

So another question is; I know you were talking a little bit about sexuality, it seems like in the beginning of the film he grew-up in kind of like a conservative family. How do you think he was able to shake that and live as freely as he did?

JAMES:

Well I mean it’s pointed out in the film. His mother was a dressmaker and he had dolls as a boy and his father made mannequins––he helped his father make the mannequins––if the other children had known about his interest in fashion and with the dolls he might have been harassed by the other children. I think also it’s pointed out that once his family are aware of his homosexuality there’s a certain gap that’s created. So I think Antonio is extraordinary that he’s able to transform himself into this incredibly inclusive and also open-minded person who is willing to live life to its very fullest and explore, including his sexuality. It’s hard to say what the root of that is, but I have a feeling that it has to do with just the love that he got. I think that there was tension created by his sexuality, but I think that he was nurtured and he was loved a lot. There’s this early photograph of him with Juan at a wedding. They’re both about 15 years old, maybe 16 and if you look at that photo really carefully––it’s a family photograph at a wedding––it just seems like they fit in. Who knows if their family were aware of their relationship, but I think they must’ve been aware of it. Maybe they’re seventeen years old because I think it’s their first year in school where they first become lovers. I think to say despite the differences and despite the homophobia that Antonio was just nurtured and loved and I think it was a natural thing for him to do in terms of where he goes with his life. Yes, he has to move out and like a lot of us, when we have a really incredible passion and we want to do something, we have to divorce ourselves––disassociate ourselves in some cases––from our family in order to be the person that we want. Moreover, we have to create our own family too. I mean that’s how we’ve lived our lives, it’s tough to say that I’m not so close to my family, but I have created my own family too. I think that’s what he had to do, he had to dissociate, but I think he stayed in touch with his mother and his father as long as he could. I hope that answers the question, there’s nothing I can really pinpoint except to say it’s love. Antonio, this is the thing about the movie which I didn’t set out to point out, but the story is about love. As much as I try to find cinematic tension with the interviews, so many people––almost all of them–– came away telling me how much they loved him and they felt his love; they felt love all the time. And I think that’s something that you can’t make-up, it’s something that’s innate that’s probably come from your childhood.

LARS:

I think that moment where everybody…well first of all, everybody obviously spoke of him with such love, but at the end when Bill Cunningham starts crying, it’s just heartbreaking. At the same time, you feel how much everybody just loved him and how mesmerizing he was. I think that comes across so well in the film.

JAMES:

Thank you, thank you. It was difficult with Bill. We were very fortunate to get Bill, it was the very last interview and then I think Ronnie and the crew all sensed that there was this genuine feeling of love that Bill was extracting that it was genuine and true that Antonio and Juan were his best friends at that time and he had such lovely memories of them. I think Bill was very aware that he was not going to be around very much longer and he wanted to share those stories with us and it got incredibly emotional, we had to shut the cameras off a couple of times because a crew of six adults just started balling in the middle of the interview.

LARS:

Oh my God!

JAMES:

And then the editing process, which although Ronnie and I had seen the film a billion times during editing, each time we see the Bill clip––even to this day––we just start getting teary-eyed. Even sometimes when I start talking about Bill I start getting teary-eyed, like choke-up a bit. He was so wonderful and so forthcoming and so giving and generous for us. That last story where he starts really crying, the camera goes off and he turns the attention to us and his care for us, his worry about us. He’s selfless and that’s how he lived his life. We just couldn’t believe it, it was just so emotional. Everybody is just weeping, I mean really weeping.

LARS:

Oh my God. I’ve only met him once, he was such a generous guy. Cecilia and James, our founders, both worked with him since the beginning of Visionaire. He really was everywhere in New York city and helped everyone. He was incredible.

JAMES:

He was incredible and he was so, he was just this person who lived a pure life. Ronnie has made an analogy that he is kind of Ghandi like because he was not driven by money or by fame, he lived his life in the most humble way. He hardly ate anything. He came to the interview and he had a little cup of soup, it’s probably the same cup of soup that he got from the same street vendor every single day, you know. There was lots of stories about Bill never cashing certain checks. He would get a check for a job, but he loved the person he worked with so much and felt so strongly about their business and wanting it to succeed in fashion that he wouldn’t take the check to the bank; he would just file it away. They found lots of checks like that in his archive. He was this incredibly humble person who gave so much but took so little. His footprint is so small, I mean his footprint is huge with photography and what he left behind, but he wasn’t a taker––he was a complete giver. That’s what’s remarkable about him I think, that’s what I’ll remember him for. We were so lucky and we just were so happy with that interview. It was hard because he had to get eye surgery. It was a Friday and that’s the day he edits the Sunday paper, we were on call. We got this call about 8am and his assistant said “get over to The Times building as soon as you can” so we got over there around 10 and we had to wait about three hours, but it was well worth the wait! That’s why Bill looks disheveled in the film. He was wearing a blue puffer coat–– the same color blue jacket that he always wears. It was a blue puffer coat and he took it off and his little pink shirt was all wrinkled. We were happy to get him in any condition!

LARS:

I didn’t notice anything actually, I just thought he looked amazing.

JAMES:

Yeah, he was amazing.

LARS:

So speaking of a puffer coat, there was a red puffer coat that appears several times throughout the film on different girls. I was wondering if that jacket has any significance for you or for Antonio or Juan?

JAMES:

I think it’s like other things that Antonio did, it’s series driven. He did a whole series of girls with black and white ceramic tiles in the background, he did a series of girls in blue water––naked, floating in the water and the red jacket series is another type of series, but I think it’s a good example of Antonio using materials and things in the shoots that were available and kind of just very obtainable and easy to get access to. That’s a red puffer jacket that he bought at Paragon Sports which is still a business operating on 17th and Broadway.

LARS:

What’s it called?

JAMES:

Paragon Sports, it’s on 17th street and Broadway, it’s by Union Square and it’s the place where you go for sneakers or outdoor equipment; it’s a big sporting goods store that’s still there. It’s a very very large, old establishment and he went over there––that’s when they had their studio at Union Square–– and he went over there and needed that kind of color I think and he got it, that’s what he wanted. I don’t know who designed it, it’s probably a main brand but I don’t know who.

LARS:

That’s cool!

JAMES:

It’s very cool right?

LARS:

It’s very now, like oversized and nice.

JAMES:

Yeah, it has a kind of Comme des Garçons quality maybe.

LARS:

Yeah! So when he was in the two main relationships that are described, or depicted in the film, with Juan and Jerry Hall, was he faithful? Or were they open?

JAMES:

I think obviously Antonio is incredibly promiscuous, he’s described by Paul as saying he’s addicted to sex. I think with the Jerry relationship and certainly the Juan relationship which were the most important relationships in his life, I think that it’s very possible that he was still having other kinds of affairs. I think he treated those relationships in a more committed way; there was a formality to it all. Jerry and he were living together, it wasn’t like he was just going out and seeing her on the run. They had a relationship where they maintained a kind of lifestyle together with Juan and Paul in the same apartment. I think also that relationship with Juan and Antonio and the youthful time in their lives when they met––if you look a the pictures––they are boyfriends, they are together and they are committed to each other and they were committed for the rest of their lives. It’s like other relationships that I have been involved with in terms of my projects like Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Wagstaff. They were together for several years and they were incredibly close and symbiotic for the rest of their lives. They were sleeping together, they weren’t lovers any longer and I think that’s very similar with Juan and Antonio; there’s a symbiotic quality to the relationships.

LARS:

Yeah because they worked together the entire time right?

JAMES:

Yeah and you asked another question about Juan. You said he’s talked about as an Art Director, which he was, but I agree with you that it was a collaborative duo, not just artist and Art Director. It’s a collaborative duo where there’s a lot of effort conceptualizing what the client needed or wanted or what they were going to produce, which entailed the streets, print materials and research. I think it’s pretty obvious that Juan was the person who came to the table with a real passion for that kind of thing more like art historical or history of fashion, history of photography and understanding the precedence, understanding what came before and what could be––what today we call––‘sampling’ or ‘appropriating.’ It was a very very collaborative duo, that’s accurate. If you look at their laurels, Antonio is the person to actually manifest and create the drawing, and it’s Juan who’s looking over his shoulder and directing and interpreting. You asked about Antonio and Juan and why we know more about Antonio and why we recognize Antonio’s name and why Juan’s lesser known, I think it’s pointed out in the film. Antonio had a huge ego and Juan didn’t have to be stroked like that, he didn’t need to have the attention that Antonio required. He wasn’t a narcissist and I’m sure he had some narcissistic qualities, but Antonio had much stronger narcissistic qualities than Juan. I think Juan was happy to… some of us don’t need to be in the forefront. We know what our role is, we know what our value is and we’re happy to step aside; we don’t feed on that the way others do. It’s like when you go to a dinner party and someone’s talking over everybody, you’re happy just to quietly listen. I mean that’s what explains some of that. Something to remember––this is probably something that isn’t as clear in the film––is that Antonio is a moniker. It represents the way today that art collaboratives call themselves something, for instance ‘Bruce High Quality Foundation’ that’s an art collaborative, that’s a group. And Antonio, the word Antonio in that moment that they were most active, it meant Juan and Antonio; it meant both of them. Antonio was the person that had the color and the guy that would take over a party or take over a table or a dance floor. He would be the instigator that was driving it all forward with his energy and his sexuality and his vibrancy. He had this fluidity. That’s why we know a lot more about Antonio and why when we think about Antonio, we know that character but we know less about Juan. Hopefully this film will bring the attention to Juan that’s warranted, that’s due and I think it does.

Bill Cunningham and Antonio Lopez, New York City, 1978. Photograph by Juan Ramos © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Karl Lagerfeld, Saint-Tropez, 1970. Photograph by Juan Ramos © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Antonio and Nancy North at Café Bonaparte, Paris, 1972. Photograph by Juan Ramos © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Juan Ramos, Paris, 1972. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Antonio Lopez, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, 1971. Photograph by Juan Ramos © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Antonio Lopez, Pat Cleveland and Karl Lagerfeld, Paris, 1970. Photograph by Juan Ramos. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Antonio Lopez, Corey Tippin and Donna Jordan, Saint-Tropez, 1970. Photograph by Juan Ramos. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Carol LaBrie, for Italian Vogue, 1971. Drawing by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Donna Jordan, for 20 Ans, 1970. Drawing by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Eija Vehka Ajo, Juan Ramos, Jacques de Bascher, Karl Lagerfeld and Antonio Lopez, Paris, 1973. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump.
Jerry Hall and Antonio Lopez, Paris, 1972. Photograph by Juan Ramos. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Jessica Lange, Paris, 1974. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Grace Jones (from Candy Bar Girls series), 1977. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Grace Jones (from Black and White Shower series), Paris, 1975. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
Tina Chow, London, 1975. Photograph by Antonio Lopez. © Copyright The Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos, 2012. From Sex Fashion & Disco directed by James Crump. Used by permission.
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