There’s no question that photography dominated the pages of fashion magazines throughout the 1980s. Illustration was largely seen as a thing of the past, not at all modern or reflective of the times. There were exceptions, however, and I for one was always delighted to encounter the rare page of illustration amongst the barrage of bold photos.
If there was to be one, Antonio Lopez was the undisputed king of ’80s fashion illustration. He signed his work simply “Antonio,” and loose, figurative style suited the first half of the decade perfectly. Lopez’s work was full of energy and his high-fashion ladies were surely influenced by his famously heady nightlife, filled with celebrities, clubs and beautiful women. But his life, like so many of his New York contemporaries, was sadly cut short and his died of AIDS-related complications in 1987, but today is still revered as one of the top fashion illustrators of the 20th century with several posthumous books published of his work.
If Lopez’s illustration style represented the newfangled ’80s lady, René Gruau’s mirrored her refined, old-money counterpart. The seasoned Italian illustrator was already in his 70s by the time the 1980s rolled around and had been practising his trade since he was a teenager. Still, his work was as vital and elegant as ever. Whether he was illustrating a Dior dress or one in his series of shoe ads for Garolini (my personal favourites), Gruau’s work was instantly recognizable, usually featuring lots of colour and a distinct, painterly style reminiscent of 19th century French poster art.
Gruau and Lopez were by no means the only illustrators working in the 1980s, though they were a rare two who were credited for their work on the page, as many went unknown to the public. The typical ’80s style was lively and vivid, a welcome diversion from photography and always a pleasure to encounter when I’m spending the day sifting through back issues of Vogue and the like.
1. Norma Kamali, Vogue, November 1984. Illustration by Antonio Lopez.
2. Dioressense, Vogue, November 1980. Illustration by René Gruau.
3. Geoffrey Beene, Vogue, September 1986. Illustration by Mats Gustafson.
4. Antonio Lopez for Vogue, April 1985.
5. Garolini, Vogue, March 1986. Illustration by René Gruau.
6. Gloria Vanderbilt, Glamour, March 1981.
7. Leon Levin, Town & Country, December 1985.
8. Moroci, Vogue, March 1986. Illustration by Randall Rayon.
9. Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, Town & Country, August 1984. Illustration by Antonio Lopez.