Sunday, July 13, 2014



The sublimely talented fashion illustrator and artist, Antonio Lopez (1943-1987),  student of The Fashion Institute of Technology and a million other achievements, has been on my mind for some time now.   The artwork shown, from a Russian-themed Bloomingdale's ad from 1981, was used for the fall/winter 2012 cover of FIT's excellent Hue alumni magazine and was put aside for this blog to illustrate yet another paisley story.

Obviously, lots of other blog ideas seemed to have crowded ahead of Antonio. But when I read Elaine Louie's touching "Charles James and Me" feature on the front page of The New York Times ThursdayStyles (April 24), there was Antonio again to remind me.

This past May, in the UK's Business of Fashion, Colin McDowell recalled that in the 1970s, Antonio and his partner Juan Ramos set about to create a drawn record of James's work,  which took the pair 10 years ― and seems to me to be such a loving project for them to take on.  Louie writes that the June 1975 "Charles James" exhibit at the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, featured 250 drawings by the designer himself plus 50 by Antonio. The writer also recalls how her friends Antonio and Juan called upon her to act as  "walker" for the star designer on opening night of the Syracuse exhibit. Her mission: to keep him from mentioning Halston and Diana Vreeland, both of whom lived with public CJ feud-clouds over their heads.    

Louie and I talked on the phone occasionally, she as editor of Art Direction and me, an editor of publications about advertising.  When I was doing a story on an artist for his striking Bloomingdale's fashion campaigns and probably called her, wanted her thoughts on the work. I remember phoning Antonio for an interview and somehow blurting out something like, do you know what a special talent you have?  What could the poor man say after that!

I believe it was also 2012, at The Morgan Library & Museum exhibit of drawings from Renaissance Venice, there was a little sketch of a piece of fabric being draped by a hand, I cannot remember whose.  It seemed that one could actually feel the fabric on the hand, on the skin.  "Antonio, you drape like that,"  I told the spirit-him.

In any event,  hopefully there would be some of Antonio's drawings in the "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" exhibit.  Located in the lower-level portion of the two-part exhibit, I could spot only two Antonio drawings among the designer's selected portfolio pages,  both with strong, bold lines that perfectly represented the designer's work and attitude.

Walls that edge the Met's main floor exhibit area are filled with sparkling, opinionated quotes from James.  One of my favorites:  "My dresses help women discover feelings they didn't know they had."   I can just imagine the power and fantasy I would feel wearing the displayed Charles James straight-line gown with its enormous, frothy sheer tail, much like the powerful rooster tails of hydroplane speed boats when they seemed to break the sound barrier in races on the Detroit River.  Dangerous. JP

"Charles James:  Beyond Fashion" remains at the Met through August 10, 2014.