Celebrating Fashion Designer Isabel Toledo’s Life

Isabel Toledo

Cuban-born Fashion Designer Isabel Toledo passed away yesterday from breast cancer at the age of 59. She is survived by her husband, artist Ruben Toledo.

Isabel Toledo immigrated from Cuba to the United States as a teenager and settled in West New York, New Jersey, a short distance from New York City. She exhibited a talent for sewing and making clothing from a young age and decided to study design at Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Although she never got around to graduating, she designed her first solo collection in 1985, gaining the respect and support of industry leaders such as Bergdorf Goodman and Fiorucci.

Toledo was never one to follow industry trends—she shunned the notion of a runway show in the ’90s, deciding instead to present her collections in museums. She was truly an artist above anything else and chose to narrow her focus on the craft involved in designing clothing—the use of fabric and advanced sewing and draping techniques. Toledo gained a cult following in the years she was designing, famously dressing First Lady Michelle Obama in a sophisticated yellow shift dress for Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

Her and her husband Ruben were a dynamic duo, collaborating in the New York art and fashion space for the last 40 years. Their last project to date is called Labor of Love, a collection of drawings, paintings, sculptures, and fashion pieces exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts from December 16, 2018 until July 7, 2019. Her presence and talent will be greatly missed.