For the average person, the 1970s weren’t necessarily a pivotal age for fashion. Babydoll dresses changed to perms and blazers, but the day-to-day garments of the common people were not hugely affected by the new decade. But while the evolution of fashion at this time was not the most dramatic, it subtly contributed a lot to the era’s consumption and design patterns.
Some things that did make the 1970s iconic were the development of the supermodel and the growing acceptance and embracing of sexuality. This sort of growth can most clearly be defined by looking at the life of fashion illustrator and man-about-town Antonio Lopez. Director and interviewer James Crump attempts to bring to light this often overlooked era, and often overlooked man, in his newest documentary, “Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco.”
The film features many of Lopez’s muses and friends, including actress Jessica Lange and supermodel Jerry Hall. They reminisce about the ‘70s and Lopez’s personal and work-related struggles. They make Lopez out to be a free-spirited artist on the brink of design innovation, with a competitive sexual energy — a force to be reckoned with. And throughout the film, many names of still-relevant fashion and design pioneers, including Karl Lagerfeld and Andy Warhol, are sprinkled into Lopez’s narrative.
While the name-dropping does compel the viewer to keep watching, there are some instances when it overshadows Lopez’s story. The film becomes less about Lopez’s life and more about who he was friends with and those people’s lives during the 1970s. The documentary particularly focuses on Lagerfeld. There comes a point in time when the film spends more than 20 minutes purely on Lagerfeld’s influence. The interviewees can’t help but drone on about Lagerfeld and his role as a design influencer and cultural savant. This blatantly highlights Lagerfeld’s absence as an interviewee.
What are not absent from the film, however, are stories highlighting Lopez’s irresistible sexual appeal. Many of the models and friends interviewed, both male and female alike, discuss their involvement with him as more than just colleagues as well as his infatuation with having multiple partners. This aura of allure is persistently depicted throughout the film, and just when it seems that the documentary will move onto a new part of Lopez’s life, it gets drawn back into his sexual prowess. This makes it seem as though Lopez’s sexuality, though not incredibly apparent through his work, was a large influence on his social life and a motivator for his career.
To contrast the scenes of highlighting sexual fervor and French soirées, it would have been nice to see more images of Lopez’s work and their integration into the fashion world. The film focuses mainly on Antonio Lopez as a person and his posse, rather than the work and talent that made Lopez famous. Other than a brief mention of Lopez’s role as a guest professor at Parsons School of Design and his schooling at the Fashion Institute of Technology, there is little to no coverage of Lopez’s ascent to fame. The story plays off of his famous name, making it difficult for viewers unfamiliar with his work to catch on and not utilizing the hour and a half of screen time fully.
The documentary repeatedly conveys the same motifs regarding Lopez’s life: his fluid sexuality, need for a muse and demand to be surrounded by other influencers and fashion industry leaders. The film should have covered more of Lopez’s life while still keeping a primary focus on the 1970s. It also should have featured more of Lopez’s drawings and strayed away from being solely narrated by Lopez’s friends. What could have really given the film dimension would have been to interview those who were not fans of Lopez and knew him during the time of the ‘70s, rather than simply interviewing staunch supporters. Maybe then the film wouldn’t be so strictly monotonous.
To its credit, the film does do a great job of memorializing Lopez and offers sweet sentiments about his charismatic nature and how it influenced these famous models and industry leaders. This unequivocal charm makes Lopez out to be a sincere friend and gives the audience an unspoken connection that the film didn’t necessarily need in order for it to be impactful. While repetitive at times, “Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco” portrays Antonio Lopez with character and vibrance, and gives Lopez a new medium other than his drawings to speak his voice — this time, through film.
Samantha Banchik covers fashion. Contact her at [email protected].