April 9, 1960 – August 26, 2019
Acclaimed fashion designer dies at 59.
Often described as a “designer’s designer”, Isabel Toledo is best known for her unique focus on technique and experimentation with structure. Her legacy of cleverly constructed architectural pieces is admired by artists, designers and members of the fashion community alike.
Isabel was born in Cuba, where she learned to sew at 8 years old because “I couldn’t find anything I loved,” she said in 2012. After emigrating with her family to the U.S., she met her future husband and artist Ruben Toledo in secondary school.
The Toledos married in 1984 and were close professional collaborators, rarely seen apart. Mr. Toledo would sketch his wife’s designs, including the famous shift dress and coat worn by Michelle Obama for the 2009 presidential inauguration. Isabel later published an autobiography illustrated by Ruben recounting their lives together, titled “Roots of Style”.
She was ahead of the curve in body-inclusivity, launching a plus-size collection for Lane Bryant at a time when the market was mostly unheard of, saying that “For me, it’s really important that women are given the opportunity to be eccentric… The liberty, the freedom, the right to be eccentric, to be their size, and to have the freedom or the opportunity to enjoy fashion at any size […] I can’t imagine not having that, so I feel a duty to provide it.”
Isabel Toledo was the quintessential New York creative: She always chose art over commerce – valuing independence and experimentation above all.