Antonio and Helmut

Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco

A Film by James Crump

Featuring: Jessica Lange, Grace Jones, Bob Colacello, Jerry Hall,
Grace Coddington, Patti D’Arbanville, Karl Lagerfeld, Juan Ramos,
Bill Cunningham, Jane Forth, Yves Saint Laurent, Donna Jordan,
Paul Caranicas, Joan Juliet Buck, Corey Tippin and Michael Chow.

Film soundtrack features music by: Donna Summer,
Marvin Gaye, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Isaac Hayes,
Curtis Mayfield, Chic and the Temptations.

Summitridge Pictures and RSJC LLC present a film by James Crump.
Edited by Nick Tamburri. Visual Effects by Andre Purwo.
Cinematography by Robert O’Haire.
Produced by James Crump and Ronnie Sassoon.

Sex Fashion & Disco is a feature documentary-based time capsule concerning Paris and New York between 1969 and 1973 and viewed through the eyes of Antonio Lopez (1943-1987), the dominant fashion illustrator of the time, and told through the lives of his colorful and sometimes outrageous milieu. A native of Puerto Rico and raised in The Bronx, Antonio was a seductive arbiter of style and glamour who, beginning in the 1960s, brought elements of the urban street and ethnicity to bear on a postwar fashion world desperate for change and diversity. Counted among Antonio’s discoveries—muses of the period—were unusual beauties such as Cathee Dahmen, Grace Jones, Pat Cleveland, Tina Chow, Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall and Warhol Superstars Donna Jordan, Jane Forth and Patti D’Arbanville among others. Antonio’s inner circle in New York during this period was also comprised of his personal and creative partner, Juan Ramos (1942-1995), also Puerto Rican-born and raised in Harlem, makeup artist Corey Tippin and photographer Bill Cunningham among others.

Lower Manhattan in the late 1960s was a cauldron of creative talent, extremely selective, but inclusive of and tolerant to the seemingly disparate creative camps that cut a broad swath through culture; music, fashion, the visual arts, film and entertainment. The film explores this vertiginous period, and Antonio’s charismatic role therein, through archival footage and stills of studio life in Carnegie Hall, infamous venues such as Max’s Kansas City and Hotel Chelsea, with original interviews with principal characters on the scene at that moment. The tumultuous late 1960s were rocked by the Vietnam war, political assassinations and unrest and the student protest movement, all of which create a high-contrast backdrop to Antonio and his entourage, blithely on a quest for beauty and pleasure in the vortex of fashion and art of the time.

In 1969, Antonio and Juan embark on a transformative journey to Paris, itself in the midst of radical social and cultural change. Ostensibly visiting to sketch the latest collections by the fashion house, Chloe, they become fast friends with designer Karl Lagerfeld who installs them in one of his Rive Gauche apartments where they form an improbable, though highly creative and erotically charged collaboration. It is the beginning of the period marked by the decline of classic couture and the nascent rise of prêt-á-porter or ready-to-wear; a development that would upend the existing aristocratic hierarchy thus making fashion designers and their entourages the rock stars of a new seventies society. The film delves into the intimate relationship between Antonio, his entourage and Karl Lagerfeld; and Lagerfeld’s rivalry with Yves Saint Laurent. It is a magical moment where the demimonde—homosexuality, club life and blurred gender lines—rises above ground in a euphoric push toward a kind of utopian ideal. Days are spent working feverishly to create the latest new looks while the principal characters become late night habitués of Club Sept where they writhe and rub bodies until dawn.

Many have described the “innocence” and “purity” of this particular moment of freedom where everything seemed possible and attainable. The intensity of this convergence of personalities, ambition and self-destruction would give way to acrimony and the breakup of once intimate friendships and the beginning of a decidedly far more decadent end to the decade saturated by drug use and addiction, sexual promiscuity and the dark cloud of AIDS hovering in the distance.

About the Director

James Crump made his directorial debut at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival with Black White + Gray, featuring the influential and legendary curator and collector Sam Wagstaff and artist Robert Mapplethorpe. In 2013, Black White + Gray was named among Blouin ArtInfo’s 20 Must-Watch Artist Documentaries. The New York Times called Black White + Gray “a potent exercise in art-world mythography.” Crump’s latest film, Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art premiered at the 2015 New York Film Festival and in Europe at Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy. The film includes rare footage and interviews which unveil the enigmatic lives and careers of storied artists Robert Smithson (Spiral Jetty), Walter De Maria (The Lightning Field) and Michael Heizer (Double Negative); a headstrong troika that established the genre. The Wall Street Journal said “Troublemakers takes its place among the great art documentaries of the past half-century.”

About the Producers

Sex Fashion & Disco is produced by Crump and Ronnie Sassoon, executive producer on Crump’s last film, Troublemakers. Sassoon is an art historian, designer and collector of art of the 1960s and 1970s, chiefly Zero and Arte Povera. After an early career in fashion design and advertising, she subsequently worked closely with her late husband, Vidal Sassoon, in product development, fragrance, advertising, marketing and promotion of the Vidal Sassoon brand worldwide. Today she resides in the second of two Richard Neutra homes for which she personally directed the restoration. Prior to this, she oversaw the restoration of architect Hal Levitt’s most important Beverly Hills residence. Sassoon has served on the boards of museums worldwide.

Director’s Statement

I became fascinated with Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos through Interview magazine when I was a young teenager in rural Indiana. Their magical lives and milieu aroused me to no end and made me fantasize about the early 1970s in New York and Paris–a period I was too young to experience. In 1997, I met Paul Caranicas, Antonio’s and Juan’s heir who since that first meeting gave me unlimited access to many thousands of drawings, photographs and 8mm and 16mm films and video.

For me, the film possesses unexpected urgency and timeliness given the diverse elements of race, ethnicity and sexuality that Antonio injected into the staid fashion world of his time. He somehow envisioned what the future of the runway could look like. When Latinx, African-American and LGBTQ rights and issues are today still being contested and underrepresented in dominant media and culture, Antonio is an ideal emblem of freedom and attainability worth remembering.

James Crump
New York, December 2016