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Isabel Toledo became a household name when Michelle Obama wore one of her dresses on Inauguration Day 2008. She's been a force in high fashion for decades—long enough to warrant a memoir, and, thank God, she has just written one. Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, and Fashion (which we have recommended to our mom, our best friend, and, yes, our book club) begins with the designer's childhood in Cuba. Moving through her immigration to America in the '60s, her high school years in New Jersey, where she met her future husband artist Ruben Toledo, and the 30 years the couple has spent building the Isabel Toledo line together since. Besides providing incredible insight into her creative process and the fashion industry in general, her story is full of all kinds of inspiring wisdom and encouraging philosophies on work, friendship, art, and love. Cue the girl crush.
On Tuesday, we stopped by her book launch at New York's Treasure&Bond to
stalk meet the designer in person. Ever gracious, the Toledos greeted old friends (Matthew Modine, Josef Astor) and total strangers (us) with equal warmth. We even got our very own Ruben Toledo line drawing out of the deal, and while he sketched, we seized the moment to ask him about the couple's collaboration on the book, for which Ruben did the illustrations. "We are so intertwined," he told us. "She wrote it and then I added the drawings. It was supposed to be 10, but it ended up being 120. [Penguin, the book's publisher] finally had to stop me."
Then he asked us a few questions. "What part of the book did you like best?" he wanted to know. Several scenes came to mind: The early description of the Cuban women of Isabel's childhood who inspired her love of style? The chapter about the couple's three weddings? Isabel's anecdotes of fashion icon Diana Vreeland, who mentored the designer when she was an intern at the Met's Costume Institute? In the end, we told him it was her honesty more than any one chapter that won us over as huge Isabel Toledo fangirls. "Honest is the word. I was worried that she would be a little too honest, actually," was his response. " he replied. "That's my wife. That's what she's about, what her clothes are about, what this book is about."
· Don't Call it a Comeback: Isabel Toledo Shows For the First Time in a Decade in San Juan, Debuts Spring Payless Collection [Racked National]
· Roots of Style [Penguin, Official site]