Kim Jones’ heroes are many and multifaceted: and one of the most multifaceted of them all is Antonio Lopez, who logic decrees should be pedestrianly described as an ‘artist’ – or maybe even ‘fashion illustrator’ – but whose work was so much, much more. Lopez and his partner in art and life Juan Ramos didn’t just draw clothes, they discovered models – another pedestrian term for the way they helped women including Pat Cleveland, Grace Jones and Jerry Hall craft themselves into heightened versions of their own personae. Just as they inspired the women who peopled their art, they helped inspire the clothes they wound up drawing them in. Particularly the clothes created by a young German designer named Karl Lagerfeld, for the French house of Chloé and the Italian Fendi brand. See where I’m going?
Kim Jones adores Lopez: he has a number of his works hanging on the walls of his London house, and based a Louis Vuitton collection on his work when he was artistic director of menswear. The deep-rooted links between Lopez and Lagerfeld, however, inspired this second outing for Fendi’s Spring/Summer 2022 womenswear show. Here, Jones didn’t just take inspiration from Lopez’s work – he directly quoted it. In collaboration with the Estate and Archive of Antonio Lopez, works were reproduced on dresses, bags, and coats – the profile of Jane Forth, a Lopez superstar, was intarsia-ed into fur, or woven into lace. “While I’ve been looking at Karl’s legacy at the house, I’ve also been looking around him, at his contemporaries – at who he was interested in,” said Jones. “Lopez was a friend of Karl’s, and has always been someone who inspired me.”
Jones was at Fendi’s headquarters in south-west Milan speaking a day or so before the show here, in a room buzzing with activity and the frantic final flurry of fittings. The artist Paul Caranicas – president of the Estate and Archive of Antonio Lopez – was present, observing the action, seeing how Lopez’s life’s work had become intricate inlaid leather bags and boots, printed dresses, and jacquards of simple brushstrokes tumbling down crepe column gowns. Delving into Fendi’s own archives, Jones found a version of the Fendi logo Lopez had created – manna for a collection like this, and maybe an assertion that it’s right for today. I mean, who doesn’t want a new logo right now. What else felt so right about Antonio Lopez for now? “He was forward-thinking; inclusive; looked up to by everyone from Andy Warhol to Steven Meisel and David Hockney,” Jones said. “I wanted to introduce him to a new generation.”
Indeed. When some people read Lopez on Instagram, they assumed Jennifer – the rumoured Fendi-Versace collaboration perhaps fed into that. The set – “Studio 54 meets Roman Empire” according to Jones – was an unabashed period piece but there was something about the undeniable, eternal glamour of Lopez and Ramos’ work that transcends time. As the models began to file out to thumping disco, glossed lips by Peter Philips and coiffed hair by Guido speared with that super-70s Guy Bourdin-y breed of phallic calla lily – literally gilded lilies, recreated as jewellery pieces by Delfina Delettrez Fendi – it was amazing how relevant they still looked today. That’s because Lopez’s work still looks relevant, and they kind of looked like his girls come back to life.
And of course this was the first live show that Kim Jones has staged at Fendi, with an audience in the room. Hence there was an undeniable, inescapable party atmosphere. “It’s a celebration,” Jones said. “Our woman has let loose a bit – she’s going out, dressing up. We’ve all been locked away for so long that I think that’s what we all need right now.” Amen to that.