Latinx Heritage Month Legacy: Designer Isabel Toledo
Mere weeks before the start of Latinx Heritage Month we lost a tremendous influence in our community: Isabel Toledo.
From a young age, the Cuban fashion designer demonstrated a talent for the craft of creating garments by hand. “I really love the technique of sewing more than anything else…the seamstress is the one who knows fashion from the inside,” she told Vogue in a 1989 interview. “That’s the art form really, not fashion design, but the technique of how it’s done.”
The Latinx entrepreneur immigrated to New Jersey as a teen and studied at both the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design. While she did not graduate, her first collection garnered the attention of Fiorucci and Bergdorf Goodman.
Toledo presented independently for decades, choosing museums over the runway, collaborating often with her husband, Ruben, a Cuban artist. Together they explored the inextricable relationship between fashion and fine art and won the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in 2005. That same year she was a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award finalist and later famously dressed First Lady Michelle Obama for her husband’s inauguration in 2009.
After a prestigious career, Isabel succumbed to breast cancer in August of this year at age 59. She is remembered adoringly by her husband who told W Magazine in 2015, “She would show up to school with the most adventurous asymmetrical haircuts and yellow and charcoal tinted eyes … Just the most incredible things that a 13-year-old ever saw.”
Rest in power, Isabel. Thank you for your contribution to our community and the world.