“I remember playing under a tall, heavy, black, magical sculpture that I pretended was a castle, I later recognized it was a Victorian Singer sewing machine.” I love this quote from Isabel Toledo about her childhood. It's a wonderful insight into her creative imagination and to why she's still evolving as designer.
You may not have heard of Isabel Toledo though she is much celebrated with in the fashion world. For this very reason she has been referred to as a designer's designer or a cult figure in fashion. I first came across her in the 80's when she was just starting out. Her whimsical yet avant garde style and the fact that she was hispanic caught my eye immediately and I have been an admirer ever since.
Isabel was born in Cuba and moved to New York as a child. From a young age she became an avid seamstress and was quoted saying, "I never thought of myself as a designer, I’m a seamstress. I really love the technique of sewing more than anything else. The seamstress is the one who views fashion from the inside! That’s the art form, really—the technique of how it’s done."
In high school she met Ruben Toledo and there began an exceptional story of love and collaboration. Ruben is an artist and fashion illustrator, they both seem to be a constant source of inspiration to each other. They are rarely photographed apart. Isabel doesn't sketch her designs instead she begins by working with the fabric she says, "I think of it as fashion from the inside out, I can describe an idea or even a feeling to Ruben, and he’ll sketch it." Isabel was honored with a mid-career retrospective in 2009 Isabel Toledo : Fashion from the Inside Out at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.