Truly one of the classiest American designers, and as such, a loss for that market
RIP Isabel Toledo
Cuban-born fashion designer Isabel Toledo, who designed Michelle Obama’s inaugural outfit, has passed on yesterday at a hospital in New York. The cause was breast cancer. Known for precise geometric construction, Toledo worked closely with her husband, Ruben Toledo. She was 59 years old.
Toledo was born Maria Isabel Izquierdo in Camajuaní, Cuba. She grew up in West New York, New Jersey, where she attended high school and met her future husband and collaborator, Ruben Toledo, whom she married in 1984. Toledo told CNN, that she started sewing at age eight, because “I couldn’t find anything I loved.”She attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (NY) and Parsons School of Design (NY), where she studied painting, ceramics, and fashion design. She left Parsons in 1979 before graduating in order to become an intern under Diana Vreeland at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Toledo died from breast cancer at a hospital in Manhattan on August 26, 2019.
Toledo presented her first collection in 1984 at Danceteria, with the help of her friend Joey Arias, who organized the events, and became an official participant in New York Fashion Week in 1985. Her work was soon being sold by Barneys New York, Colette in Paris, and Joyce Boutique in Hong Kong. Her work became influential in the world of design. According to the Israeli designer Alber Elbaz, “Everybody sort of stole from Isabel. Her work was about volume, cut, experiments, a laboratory of fabric — and that was not an Instagram moment. It was fashion.”
In 1998, she stopped presenting biannual collections, instead choosing to create on her own schedule. Toledo was named creative director of Anne Klein in 2006 after more than twenty years of working solely under her own name, and this allowed her work to reach a wider public. Toledo made her debut with Anne Klein at New York Fashion Week in February 2007. Toledo and Anne Klein parted ways later in 2007.
Along with her husband, Ruben Toledo, Isabel was the recipient of the 2005 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for their work in fashion.
Toledo was also the recipient of an Otis Critics’ award named for her at the Los Angeles-based Otis College of Art and Design.
On September 3, 2008, Isabel Toledo was presented with the third annual Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion from the Museum at FIT in New York’s Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center.
Michelle Obama first wore a Toledo design on June 18, 2008 for an appearance at a New York City fashion world fund-raiser. Obama had been a fan of her work from buying her clothes in Chicago at Ikram Goldman’s store.
Toledo designed a lemongrass yellow wool lace shift dress with matching overcoat which the First Lady selected to wear at the first inauguration of her husband Barack Obama.