In Love with The Make, Isabel and Ruben Toledo


Isabel Toledo & Ruben NYC 1987

New York City on the make is a churning pot of all kinds of Mob-Stars and Fame Gamers. The best New York stories happen every minute… when fortune smiles in chance meetings, in a flash hard work for years is rewarded, creative collabs are formed or the hand of Fate puts one suddenly on the map.

For a fashion designer, having the most visible and important woman in the world wear your dress on a major historic occasion just because she loves your work (without any mob influence, horse heads or gratuitous “celeb stylist” posturings)…this a classic New York City lore of “Making It” adding Isabel and Ruben Toledo to the illustrious list that includes Madonna, Ivanka and Gaga, Woody Allen and Warhol, The Dons King, Trump and Corleone, Spike Lee, Jay Z and P. Diddy, DVF, SNL and…Speidi?…and many other twirling wanna-bes who have officially crossed over the tracks.

“Don’t ever think you’ve made it, because it’s all downhill from there,” Toledo joked the other day in the Wall Street Journal, “I made it when I was 8 years old and I made my first garment — how about that? I fell in love with the make.”

This Self-Made original woman was one lithe slice of joy in her simple sleeveless white sheath, upon the opening this week on Tuesday night of the FIT Exhibit,Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out, which runs June 17 through September 26, 2009.


As a jewelry designer in the 1980’s and 90’s my first memory and vision of the Toledos remains Ruben’s sketches of women in Details and other downtown magazines that ran along side images of our jewelry. When I realized he and his wife looked like and were actually the living characters I loved in the drawings and plus…they were living and creating for “The Love of The Make”… I was smitten.  My life has been lived first for creativity and to share and inspire that with others is The Path of Those In Love with The Make.


Kind of perfect then that the dress that puts the Toledos on the map was metaphorically (intentionally?) designed to look like a swath through a bright green Spring meadow, shining with lights and gathered near the heart, worn by a woman who could easily be the President herself.  Michelle too is one-half also of an integral strong and creative partnership, perhaps THE most important in the world right this minute.

Invited to the cocktail party by the FIT costume exhibit co-creators Dr. Valerie Steele and Patricia Mears, I in turn invited one of my co-creators, life-inspirer and new designer, little marvin, to “make” this post as we sparred over which black lace dress in Isabel’s Shadow series was the bomb.  (I loved the one with the red-tie at the neck, he loved the sheer shirtdress.) A Renaissance man, who sleeps head cradled between two biographies, Gandhi and Richard Branson, little marvin embodies both men in his creative world as a producer of non-scripted-scripted programming, writer/personality, designer and humanitarian.  

The spirit of the evening was full of friends and New York’s Fashion Gang Stars including Andre Leon Talley, Cator Sparks, Patrick McDonald, Simon Doonan, Joey Arias, Kim Hastrieter and Bethann Hardison, to name a few.  Interestinglysome noteworthy creative partners were also on the scene (since that is a very Isabel and Ruben theme we must repeat it unceasingly) such as Carmela Spinelli (who was Tim Gunn’s co-creator at Parsons), Lori Sutherland and Eric Hagmueller, who together rock the upcoming (covered here) New York City Opera Divas Shop for Opera (where Isabel and Ruben are co-chairs this year), Philippe Blond (sans David) and Amy Rosi and Peter Rosenthal.

Herewith is a view of the event via the continuance of the sparring that sparked from a combo of 4 glasses of wine, 2 “In Love With The Make” know-it-alls in front of 6 of Isabel’s black lace Shadow collection confections in a room full of infectious Toledo-ness.

Meet little marvin here and see his latest project from Monte Carlo.


Jade: What did you witness tonight at the party that you will always remember?

lm: How graciously Isabel & Ruben received each and every single guest that walked in (myself included)… a perfectly-suited Ruben, passed out post-exhibit on a bench with a bouquet in his tiny, pale grip (very Tim Burton directs “Evita”)… playing “revolving doors” with Andre Leon Talley (sadly, not a sexual position)

As a producer of non-scripted programming, what reality series would you make about Isabel & Ruben?

I’m seeing lots of lemongrass brocade and pop-locking.  So You Think You Can Sew?

The year is 2020 (we survived 2012, thank God and the new-age angels!) What is Isabel Toledo’s legacy? If she never designed Michelle Obama’s inauguration dress, how would our world be the same or different?

If Isabel had never designed M.O.’s inauguration dress, then one might surmise that B.O. had never won the election. The truly important fashion questions then become: Would Aretha have sang at McCain’s swearing in? And would Cindy have allowed A.F. to wear that hat?  I guess what I’m really trying to say is: Thank you Isabel.

Describe your favorite piece in the show and your experience seeing it.

I really loved this simple, yet exquisitely sculpted, gray cashmere trench (which the Toledo’s lawyer, was quick to point out to me, would be available at Barney’s shortly.  Love lawyers!) 

Male fashion legends from Andre Leon Talley to Joey Arias to Simon Doonan were there tonight.  What did you talk to them about?  Who else did you see or talk to?

Sadly, I couldn’t talk much at all what with the constant mouthfuls of tiny, conical hors d’oeuvres.  I did see the “food & wine gay” from Queer Eye and a few Project Runway castoffs which is always fun.  I also saw someone you falsely claimed was Fabio, though I’m pretty sure it was actually Mickey Rourke prepping for his next role as Fabio.

We had a spat over the black lace dresses and so here is your platform. Say.  Why is the sheer shirt dress with black lace more________than the red necktie dresses that I was about to write a brilliant twitter about before you rudely interrupted my creative stream?

First, “brilliant Twitter” = oxymoron.  (See: @iamdiddy, @aplusk & @kirstiealley) Second, said spat had less to do with the relevance of the sheer shirt dress (which was arguably more subversive ) then it did with your inability to fully convince me of the redneck’s genius. (Another oxymoron.)  Anyway, full disclosure: I was really just pissed there were no more tiny, conical hors d’oeuvres left. 

What famous actress do you think would catapult to the next level if she wore a Isabel Toledo dress?  And in which dress?

Only 4 days ago my answer would have been Chastity Bono. See how fickle fashion is?! Definitely Natalie Portman in the “Convertible Lettuce Dress.”  It’s gonna take layers and layers of sheer coral to make that one read “movie star”, you know?

Sometimes I think Isabel’s genius is taking tiny embellishment and blowing it up and out of proportion into a whole dress, for example the tiny wine colored satin mini dresses that are just a big ruffle or the pleated fabric dresses or even Michelle’s simple lime green coat.  Like a path in a field…simple. What do you think about that idea?  It’s not really about the body but instead a simple idea, overblown and exaggerated, that a woman’s self can interact with.

As evidenced by our aforementioned “redneck” spat, I think you’re absolutely correct:  Women do have a tendency to take tiny embellishments and blow them all out of proportion. 

Awwww, SNAP!

isabel, ruben toledo

grrr, hmmmph, where’s that damn lawyer?  Actually…I’m feelin’ a little PMS, a little way over the Stiller + Meara, Regis + Kelly banter on the Fashion Funster Mobster scene.  Nonetheless, little marvin, I thank you for your astute culinary-infused, sartorially sassy, gender-biased and blithe commentary and let’s do it again next month, same time!

*little marvin is CEO/founder of little marvin/BIG MEDIA, a full-service media company that creates non-scripted programming, web/mobile media and branded entertainment.  he is also a bit of a genius, and infamous for squiring some of the world’s most beautiful people. he didn’t write this.

although…he did tweet this…

@ Isabel Toledo opening party. Michelle’s inauguration dress + Andre Leon Talley in the same room? Gay buttons = officially pushed

follow lm’s twitter feed here.

the aforementioned Jade tweet:

What to wear for a Redneck function? Sheer black lace whispers like spanish windows n a red tie @ the neck??? almodovar suburban knish nicks

follow our twitter feed here.

Note: Twitter is no substitute for God, Career or a Beautiful, glittery evening celebrating venerable New York institutions such as FIT, the dedication of Original Talent and the Toledo style.  See this show…there is more life and fashion and the fame game happening here than in any episode of Project Runway.


yeahrightWendy Goodman’s New York magazine coverage of Isabel and Ruben Toledo’s home in Habitually Chic

written by Jade Dressler and little marvinyeahright-1

One Response to “In Love with The Make, Isabel and Ruben Toledo”

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