Event Recap: Roots of Style with Isabel Toledo
by ATFDC Contributor Susan Stipanovich
As Michelle Obama strode down Pennsylvania Avenue in January of 2009 in honor of her husband’s Presidential Inauguration wrapped in a lemongrass-yellow wool lace shift dress and matching coat, Isabel Toledo celebrated a victory of her own. Her team had been working tirelessly in the designer’s New York studio over the Christmas holiday to create the ensemble, made of Swiss wool lace, backed with netting for warmth and lined in French silk. Cuban-born Toledo has been designing clothes for over 25 years, releasing her first major collections in the mid-1980s and also working with the label Anne Klein after her time at Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design in New York. Now celebrating the release of her first book Roots of Style, which the New York Times describes as “a hefty, 384-page effort — both prescriptive (how to negotiate textile prices) and lovingly descriptive,” Toledo finds herself back in Washington D.C. for a book signing at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
The event, co-sponsored by Fashion Group International of Greater Washington, D.C., was driven by the bright, enthusiastic energy of the Toledos. Immediately after sitting down with the couple, one is struck by their interested, engaging demeanor. ”The book has been an adventure” says Ms. Toledo, glancing at her husband who beams back at her. Their seamlessness in professional collaboration as well as personal interaction is remarkable. Ruben Toledo, professional painter and the illustrator for many Nordstrom advertisements, is responsible for the striking images that accompany Isabel’s text. They answer questions as a unit, each giving their perspective on things such as inspiration and collaboration, even finishing each others sentences.
The book is truly a fantastic read, an insight into the fascinating lifestyle of Isabel and Ruben Toledo. Roots of Style traces the personal and professional journey of the couple, giving their story and perspective on how a successful life and career can be created in the fashion industry. When asked what advice she would have for young designers starting out, she says, “My advice to designers just starting out is always the same: do what you love, use your instinct, and make sure what you make is infused with your soul and with passion because people can feel that.”
All images by Laura Zucker for All Things Fashion DC.
Susan Stipanovich is a stylist and writer who lives and works in Washington D.C. She researches counter terrorism methods and international security sector reform in Africa and the Middle East by day as a Department of Defense associate and spends her free time curating a fashionable lifestyle through her blog Hepburn Loves Givenchy.