Susan Baraz and Antonio Lopez in the early seventies
For KENZO’s Summer ’17 collection, we drew upon the work and legacy of vanguard fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez. Lopez’s drawings for Vogue, Interview, and The New York Times brought a postmodern playfulness to bear on Romantic and Art Deco motifs, a signature style through which he explored deeper themes of race and desire. This marriage of visual joy and social utopianism marks an obvious kinship between Lopez’s drawings and KENZO’s spirit, and is celebrated in the use of the artist’s prints in our Summer looks.
In an editorial shot by photographer Alice Neale, Susan Baraz (muse, model, best friend to Lopez and Neale's godmother) presides over the cast as a play-act matriarch, recollecting her memories of Lopez while performing the gestures of family, blurring the lines between fashion photography, fiction, and documentary.
Shop the collection for men and women
I had my hair to kind of close me off from everybody, in bangs and long hair. And I always smiled with my hand in front of my mouth because I thought my mouth was too big. And they had a snack bar with music going and you actually could dance there. And so I was sitting very shy in one booth because I didn’t know anybody there. And this guy came over to me, and he said, “Do you want to dance?”
And then he said, “Why do you wear your hair that way? Your face is beautiful, and you should take your hair away from your face completely. I want to see it.” And it was Antonio. And he dragged me out to dance and that was it. It was kismet. It was the moment that my life changed. And it was like stepping into somebody’s world and through somebody’s eyes that saw something special in me. How? I have no idea, but he saw it in thousands of other people from me and after me, that changed my life and also changed their lives. And it was like stepping into his world. The dance step led to stepping into his world.
I was studying illustration, fashion illustration. And he was at FIT doing fashion illustration. And everybody that was in the class was in drawing the models, and he was drawing, using the model to start his drawing of something completely fantastic from that beginning. And when, you know, you think you were doing something so wonderful and then you’d look over and you’d say, “Oh my God,” that is a whole other level of what drawing was about. And when he would throw things in the trashcan, we all would go and grab it from there because we wanted to keep whatever he was drawing because he’s going to be somebody.
He was already, anyway, somebody. And he would sit with me in class and I’d be, you know, drawing away and all that, and he’d say, “Well, why are you bothering to draw when you’re going to be my model?”
And I was, I used to laugh, “Ha! Ha! Ha!” You know. Um, yeah it’s really, not really. And, of course, it was exactly what came to be, because I could never have achieved in illustration, the place that I could see that he was going to be at. And it’s like, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” That’s the expression, and I, I was thrilled, thrilled to be not only his model but to work on concepts in things that never were before, um.
We always had fun. We had to have fun before we actually got to do the serious work. So we would go dancing almost every single night. And, I mean, FIT was just the beginning of that whole time.
Modelling for Antonio was very sensual, because even though sometimes the studio was crazy with people coming in and people coming out, um, there was this kind of relationship with his models, like me and him, let’s say – um, very intense. You just wanted to, I don’t know, give everything over to make this creation, this drawing. And I mean it has sexual references, but it felt like that, it was very sexually charged. Um, and he would like inhale you almost. He had this... anybody that was his model knows that this is true. He would kind of like take these deep breaths and then kind of put it out there with his, you know, his pencil or pen, or whatever.
Even though you were having a boyfriend and all that, I don’t know of any one of his models that weren’t completely in love with him.
What you were wearing didn’t necessarily translate to how wonderful it became when he was drawing it, to the point that, one day, I remember they called up from Bloomingdales because I had done a lingerie ad with him, and it was so stupendous, the outcome of it. And when the woman went in to go and buy what was already drawn, she was, like, so angry, “Well, this isn’t what it looked like,” because it was, you know, so much more fabulous in the drawing part of it, um, than what it was.
We did a lot of fashion of The Times sections. A lot of times we didn’t do it right away, we did it at last because I’d be going out sometimes with gowns on from the things that we were supposed to sketch and in The Times section they have a whole closet full of fabulous shoes and accessories, and all of that. So, I would, um, he would put on my make-up, (Laughs) and we would dress up and it would be exactly like Cinderella. I mean, I’d be in this gorgeous gown and then we’d speak back in the morning, like four o’clock in the morning after we went dancing because New York was open non-stop all night long with these discos, and stuff. And then you put the gown back and the shoes back in the closet where The Times had their accessory department and all of that. And then, you became, you know, Cinderella back again, taking the subway home.
God, we just had fun, and it wasn’t even, it didn’t involve drugs. It didn’t involve, you know, any, none of us really did that. We were just so excited about being in the right place at the right time. It was just fun, just real fun. You felt free. You could express yourself. You could do anything. And I was with somebody that was, you know, honouring that. I mean, he was so creative on every level, um, that um. You know, it’s an eye opener to yourself to look at the world through that kind of a lens, um, in life. I was very lucky, and...
You know it was a very symbiotic relationship, you know, and um, well, to the very end, actually, to the very, very end.
The last drawing he ever did was of me.
Photographer: Alice Neale
Stylist: Victoire Simonney
Models: Susan Baraz, Kendall @ Nous Model Management, Leila Rahimi @ Wilhelmina, Jake Alan @ Ford Models and Kamran Dhillon.
Make Up: Stacey Nishimoto et Natalie Fält
Hair: Stephen Beaver
Photographer's assistant: Bardley Barnes et Robbie Coral
Stylist's assistant: Virginia Fontaine
Casting Director: Cast Partner
Retouch: Touch Digital
Produced by Slowdance
Special thanks to Susan Baraz, Robert Berman and ROBERT BERMAN GALLERY and Isabella Cassini.