Isabel and Ruben Toledo are known today as the biggest love story in fashion; their endless, intense love for each other is the foundation on which their best thoughts grow. Her whip-wise illustrations and razor-sharp clothes have overlapped and intersected many times over the forty years they have shared together. Even after Isabel’s untimely death in 2019, Ruben still feels his presence in everything he does and writes with heartfelt respect for his beloved wife for American Vogue: “I see everything and everyone with your unforgettable eyes.”
The lives of Isabel (born Maria Isabel Izquierdo) and Ruben Toledo are read as a classic love story; both of Cuban descent met as teenagers at a high school in New Jersey and formed an unbreakable friendship. Reuben experienced “love at first sight,” and Isabel’s love grew slowly over time. “I fell in love with the art of Reuben before I fell in love,” he said. Together with friends, they watched the legendary New York disco in the late 1970s, meeting artists and celebrities at Studio 54, Xenon and Mudd Club. Isabel has created her own unique party dress, which attracted the attention of fashion photographer Bill Cunningham.
During a class walk to the Museum of Modern Art, Isabel and Ruben entered the Fiorucci store, run by drag artist Joey Arias. Reuben agreed to sell Isabel’s hand-painted photographic portfolio at the store where she admired Aria. Thanks to their relationship with Fiorucci, Isabel and Ruben mingled with the leading creators of New York, including Lena Horne and Andy Warhol, who admired these talented and beautiful Cuban youth.
Isabel studied painting, ceramics, and fashion at the Institute of Fashion Technology and the Parsons School of Design in New York, while Ruben remained a self-taught illustrator in her work, maintaining a somewhat strange, free-spirited innocence. Isabelle was the most regular museum, which in most of her illustrated works looked like a beauty with eyes and crow’s hair. The couple married in 1984 and the first years of their marriage were marked by perseverance and hard work. Reuben was a tireless promoter of Isabel’s work, securing orders with Patricia Field’s 8in Following the contours of Street Boutique and each dress, Isabel sewed each one by hand.
Toledos gradually found a place for themselves in the following years, exploring how different fashion illustrations could complement her minimal and angular silhouettes. Together, they organized events and parties, sent patterned invitations to white-gloved gloves, and invited friends from Fiorucci to model Isabel’s dress. Ruben even made a series of mannequins for Barney in 1989, modeled on Isabel’s slim figure, and Isabel always chose her friends’ sketches as stationery and gifts for her friends. In recent years, they have built a three-story Manhattan home / work area where everyone can spread out and be creative while stepping into someone else’s space to steal ideas.
Isabel explained the similarity of their partnerships to a vine, not a tree: “You should never be a tree in a relationship, you should always be a vine. The trees grow, but fall. Grapes? The pieces fall, but it continues. “This hint of a swimmer is also reflected in the couple’s response to fashion, which refuses to be static and responds as a constantly changing pattern.” Fashion is very modern in this regard, “says Ruben. Nothing is withdrawn. He is an expert in vibration and communication. ”
Individually, Isabel and Toledo have achieved remarkable success. Isabelle’s experimental, angular, and architectural attire has been a hallmark of New York urban culture since the mid-1980s, appearing in progressive magazines, including Village Voice, Paper, and Visionaire. New York, Paris and Tokyo. Meanwhile, Ruben’s crazy, surrealistic illustrations have appeared on album covers, wallpapers and in the world’s leading fashion magazines, including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Paper and Interview. But it is the combined forces that remain the greatest legacy that unites the worlds of art and fashion in a single and unique whole.