70 years of Antonio Lopez

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Antonio, American Vogue Patterns 1, 1975
Antonio, American Vogue Patterns 1, 1975Courtesy of East of Mayfair

We speak to East of Mayfair director Janina Joffe about their new exhibition celebrating the famed fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez

This year would have been the 70th birthday of the doyen of fashion illustration Antonio Lopez. To mark the occasion, East of Mayfair are joinging forces with the Roland Mouret concept store to host a unique selling exhibition of his works, due to open tomorrow. Born in Puerto Rico, and raised in New York, Antonio (Lopez opted to work under his first name) was one of the era's most influential fashion visionaries, his vibrant and majestic works filling the pages of all major fashion publications of 60s, 70s and 80s America. Here, we present a selection of illustrations from the exhibition – including a number from American Vogue and a wonderful crayon sketch of Andy Warhol for Interview – and speak to East of Mayfair director Janina Joffe to find out more about Antonio's legacy and the demise of the fashion illustration.

What prompted you to hold the exhibition? Had it been in the pipeline for a long time?
I have been interested in fashion illustrations since working on the Drawing Fashion exhibition at the Design Museum and have been thinking about how to show these works in London since I launched East of Mayfair. Antonio Lopez would have turned 70 this year and there has been a recent resurgence of interest in his work. In September of last year, Rizzoli released a major monograph of his work entitled Antonio – Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco and The Suzanne Geiss Company hosted a comprehensive exhibition in New York. Antonio has never been as well known in Europe as he is in the US, so I thought this anniversary would be a great opportunity to introduce London to some of his work.

"Antonio's work remains timeless, energetic and accessible almost 30 years after his death"

What is particularly special about Antonio's work, from your point of view? And what has been his legacy?
The most striking thing about Antonio's work is its versatility and dynamism. His vision (along with that of his creative partner Juan Ramos) was constantly evolving and subsequently these drawings capture the essence of each decade and period in all its visual language – colour, movement, composition, styling etc. At the same time Antonio's work remains timeless, energetic and accessible almost 30 years after his death. His legacy is visible in many ways – in fashion campaigns, the models' careers he launched (such as Jerry Hall) and even in new products such as the MAC makeup collaboration launching simultaneously as our exhibition. Antonio's eccentric and charismatic personality embodies an exciting sub-culture that we associate with the 70s and 80s before the notion of being part of the "scene" became totally self-aware and commercialised.

What do you hope viewers will take away from the display (aside from an illustration!)?
I hope viewers will take away an understanding of how talented and visionary Antonio was. Since he isn't a household name in London, I'm also glad that newcomers will learn to appreciate what kind of incredible work was out there before fashion photography, in all its airbrushed glory, replaced fashion illustration completely. We consume fashion advertising very differently nowadays and the spontaneous artistic touch isn't nearly as visible anymore. It would be amazing if viewers came away with an interest in Antonio's story and even fashion illustration in general.

70 years of Antonio Lopez opens tomorrow at the Roland Mouret concept store and runs until October 20.

Text by Daisy Woodward