PHYLLIS ODESSEY

Like a Laboratory Experiment

I don’t believe in love at first sight.   If there was a chance of convincing me that such a thing exists, Ruben and Isabel Toledo might be able to persuade me.  They met when they were in high school and have been together ever since, both in marriage and business.

Isabel Toledo is one of those designers who flies under the radar.  Her populist moment arrived when Michele Obama wore her creation at the Presidential inauguration in 2009.  Isabel Toledo remains  a cult figure in the fashion world.  She and her husband own their own small business and they have worked to keep it that way.  It’s hard to find the Toledo label, even in New York.  Access to her clothes is a rarefied experience.  You will not find the Toledo label on sunglasses, underwear, handbags, jewelery, watches, belts, ipad covers, pantyhose, sheets, shoes, luggage or jeans.
 

With remarkable candor, Isabel Toledo characterized herself as a scientist; in search of solutions using fabric.  Her work is as much about making sculpture as it is about engineering.  “I want to make that garment that a woman cannot get rid of.  I am a radical classicist.  A garment is brought to life by the woman who wears it.”

 
The Toledos finished each others sentences.  Ruben, a well-known artist, illustrator and filmmaker was as supportive in public of Isabel; as I imagine he is in private.  When asked how she would define fashion: “I try to stay out of fashion.  It’s a fleeting moment.  I connect with value.”
About ten years ago, I had a chance to buy a Toledo coat at a tremendously reduced price.  I was feeling flush at the time.  I know something about fashion, but nothing about the making of clothes.   In spite of this shortcoming, I instinctively reacted to the fabric as a transformative medium.  Not owning it, I felt regret at the time.  Hearing Toledo last night, a pang of anguish washed over me. 
 
When I left FIAF, it was still snowing.  I stopped thinking about the Toledo coat. Instead I opted for another of Toledo’s past times, the hula hoop.  As soon as I finish this post, I am going online to find a hula hoop.  For Toledo it’s a mediatative experience, I only hope, it will do the same for me.

Isabel and Ruben

TOLEDO

March 18, 2013
FIAF
Introduced by Cindi Leive
Editor-in-Chief of Glamour
Moderated by Pamela Golbin
Chief Curator of Fashion and Textiles
Les Arts Decoratifs, Paris

FASHION AT FIAF

 Fashion Talks with Pamela Golbin

Naeem Khan

March 27 at 7 pm
 
 

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