Creative tandem Rubin and Isabel Toledo are as much in love with their work as they are with each other. During a lecture given by the two at Kent State Univesity’s School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, they gave a vision of patterns, passion, and ideals of individuality and creativity.
The event came off as more than a lecture. It felt more like a dinner-date conversation where the two across the table are so excited about each other and their dreams, yet still independent of each other. They finished each other’s sentences, and seamlessly ended topics with complementary interesting new subjects. Personally, I think we all should be as lucky to feel as loved, respected, and inspired as they do with each other.
At the onset, Isabel spoke on her love for fabric, it’s properties, and how her start came from making clothes from Simplistic patterns. This was until she mastered the art of understanding the relationship between patterns on the table and how they flow over the human form on a garment. Since then, her designs have continuously evolved in complexity and vision. She explained how our individual curves and shapes are all wonderful unique “problems” and how her knowledge of fabric’s natural reaction to gravity allows her to create patterns that will give her the desired result, much like a physicist explaining the mathematical solution to a theory.
She spoke very proudly of her vision for Michelle Obama’s Inauguration dress, noting that at the time, that she had no idea at what event it would actually be worn. From it’s thick winter-friendly construction, to the selection of the “optimistic color” of lemongrass, her accounts of the garment painted her as a meticulous and thoughtfully inspired designer. As if it had just happened yesterday, Ruben then began to explain how they found out about Mrs. Obama’s dress selection along with the rest of the world. His vivid narration of the excitement from the flood of phone calls and e-mails from family, friends, and media, put you right with them, their staff, and their parcel delivery person, as they watched the television in anticipation of confirming what they’ve heard throughout the morning.
Ruben spoke briefly about his mannequin designs, and his illustration inspirations for Nordstrom, but since the audience consisted of mostly aspiring fashion designers, Ruben did not fully elaborate. He did however, speak on the importance of the collaboration of all disciplines, creative and technical. Mr. Toledo strongly believes (and I totally agree) that many ideas and much inspiration can come from the “cross colonization of disciplines”, and that we should all participate in constructive conversation to better our individual vocations. I will say that from what was shown of his work, his creativity and insight into the world of art through fashion is nothing short of phenomenal. Justly so, his efforts are equally matched by his wife in her forte’, fashion design.
When asked about her decision to no longer reveal her collections on fashion show runways, Mrs. Toledo responded by stating that this way, her pieces are not “pre-digested by the media.” “Women discover the fashion in the store,” and their discovery “let’s them interpret it for themselves.” Call it strange, but the nerd in me feels like Isabel’s collections are very much like social media. The users experience the media firsthand typcially for the first time, and usually catches on by either another first encounter (my intro to Twitter), or from seeing another peer experience it’s use firsthand. Either way, it’s a fantastic way to build brand loyalty. Her client’s first views and opinions of her collections come either from on a rack, or seeing it in passing on the street, thus letting the clothes and her reputation create it’s own buzz among a core network of fashion forward women. Her collections’ “social network” just happens to span back over 20 years.
There was so much more that was spoken of that evening, including in the brief moment Steve and I got to converse with them. Short of writing a novel, I will leave it with some quotes (in addition to what was already written) that stuck out:
“It is very important to have a craft. Perfect what you do and no one can stop you.”
“If you have an original idea and something original to say, there are people willing to listen.”
On their advice to young designers and the creative, “Keep your individuality.”