[Editor’s Note: Mamiverse.com will be giving away three coveted, signed copies of Isabel Toledo’s Roots of Style. Like our Facebook page for updates and details.]
The fiercely talented Isabel Toledo’s success has been on her terms. From refusing to show during Fashion Week and designing on her own schedule—and not that dictated by the fashion industry—to referring to herself as a “seamstress,” she’s done things her way—and always with passion and aplomb. Her stunning fashions and attention to the every stitch earned her the label as a “designer’s designer” (is there a higher compliment in the cutthroat world that if fashion?) over her many decades in the industry. But you probably know her better as the woman behind the lemongrass green ensemble First Lady Michelle Obama wore on Inauguration Day—and as a designer of fab shoes for Payless no less!
“When you’re an artist, you have no map to show you the right direction or safety net to catch you when you fall,” Toledo has said. “You have to find your own vision through discovery, passion, and intuition.”
In her revealing new book, Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, and Fashion (Celebra), Toledo discusses her artistic inspirations and the personal experiences as a young child growing up in Cuba that have shaped her work. For the first time, she opens up about that early childhood in Cuba and growing up in West New York, New Jersey, where she met and fell in love with her future husband, illustrator and collaborator, Ruben Toledo, a famous artist in his own right. He takes his wife’s creations from idea to illustration. His illustrations are featured throughout Roots of Style.Mamiverse had the pleasure of getting to the root of some fun facts, asking 10 questions of the seriously talented designer:
1. You are considered, by many, the coolest woman in fashion. Name three people you currently consider cool, and at the top of their game.
Michelle Obama, for her focus and passion. Whoopi Goldberg, for the humanity in all her communication talents. She really touches people. Deborah Nadoolman Landis, a respected costume historian now organizing an exhibition at the Victorian Albert Museum on Hollywood costumes. She is best known for her work in Animal House and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Thriller video with Michael Jackson, Coming to America and many more. These three women are carrying out their visions and making a difference for others.
2. What’s your favorite place in the world and why?
Our studio. It’s where creation happens, dreams are born, my staff and I commune, and my flowers grow on the window sills of Tin Pan Alley, Manhattan!
3. Name three things of the natural world that inspire you.
Trees and birds in flight
The sound of wind blowing through pine trees
4. Which historical figure would you most love to share a long sumptuous dinner with and why?
Every sage that ever lived. It would be a big banquet.
5. You collaborate with your husband Ruben on many projects, this lovely book included. If you were to list one rule for a successful marriage, what would that rule be?
Respect for each other’s differences.
6. You came of artistic age in 1970’s New York. What are three things 70’s NYC produced that made the most impact on you?
Diversity in action
Women’s rights awareness
7. If you had to pick one of the following careers, which would you pick and why: Mime, Juggler, Cupcake Specialist?
Cupcakes for sure. I love to cook and Ruben loves to eat!!! Two for one career.
8. You write a lot about your admiration of architecture and solid engineering. If you had to pick one architectural structure that perfectly embodies your work, what would that structure be? And why?
The Golden Gate Bridge. Not only for its ingenuity, but for its location. It stands so useful, proud, and very mysterious!
9. What is your greatest fear?
Not being able to answer your question….
10. How would you most like to be remembered?