Thu, 08 Nov 2012 22:28:21 GMT | By By Rosie Cordero

Isabel Toledo on her new book, living her dream and more

It’s been thirty years since Isabel Toledo arrived on the New York fashion scene and she is ready to celebrate.

Ruben and Isabel Toledo (© R and I by Troy House)

Ruben and Isabel Toledo

Isabel Toledo, the iconic designer who has shown Latinas all over the world that no dream is out of reach, solidified her place in history when First Lady Michelle Obama wore an original Toledo to her husband's historic inauguration in 2009.

On November 11, Toledo and her husband, Ruben, will come full circle when they unveil their 30-year retrospective as part of the Miami International Book Fair. The fair's location, at the Freedom Tower, is a very special one for the Toledos who emigrated from Cuba after the revolution. Like many refugees from that era, it was their first stop on the road to freedom in America.

I had the pleasure to speak with the Toledo's this week to discuss their new book, "Roots of Style: Weaving Together, Life, Love, and Fashion," her collaboration with Payless ShoeSource, fashion blogging, and future projects.

LatinZine: You are proof positive that if you focus on making a dream come true, you can achieve it no matter your circumstance. Your book felt like a love story to dreamers all over the world. What inspired you to pen your story at this point in your career?

Toledo: Along with dreamers, I also want to reach the doers. Of course, the doing starts with dreaming. But we wanted to emphasize the importance of working with your hands, of carrying out your dreams, and connecting your ideas to physical reality.

I was blessed to learn how to sew and make things with my hands at an early age. So early, that it became second nature to me. My husband Ruben was drawing before he could write.

Doing takes away the intimidation of failing because you can always improve as you try again and again. So for us, connecting your hand to your mind and your spirit is what it's all about. We are very grateful for that and wanted to share.

LZ: In your book, "Roots of Style," your words and Mr. Toledo's beautiful illustrations show how perfectly in sync you both are. What was the creative process like when you created the book together?

Toledo: I wrote every morning while still in bed after I had my morning café. I wrote piles and piles of pages, which Ruben would later pick up and doodle in the margins as he read. The whole story really did weave itself.

LZ: Fashion bloggers have become the tastemakers of the style world lately. People are looking to emulate them and brands are looking to work them. What are your thoughts on fashion blogging?

Toledo: I love them. Blogging is another form of communication. The more we all share and communicate; the better. I think we are all pretty aware of the difference between entertainment and knowledge, content and diversion, and that they are all valid.

Sometimes we want serious thoughts and sometimes we want diversion. Sometimes we want champagne and sometimes soda pop is just the right. It's up to the individual to know what to consume.

LZ: You came to the United States as a young girl and you serve as a huge influence to many young Latinas that are working hard to fulfill their dreams. What is your advice for them?

Toledo: Be yourself. Your uniqueness is your strength. We need to continue this wonderful weave of diversity that was jump started at the beginning of this country. It's what gives us all strength. You have everything inside you that you need to succeed.

LZ: By collaborating with Payless ShoeSource you helped women step-out with confidence at affordable prices. Was this an important point for you when deciding to collaborate with a mass-market retailer?

Toledo: Absolutely, and it's something I look forward to doing so much more. I have always believed that good design does not have to cost a fortune. There are so many levels now that everyone can appreciate and participate in fashion.

I love designing a shoe, a dress, a handbag that can be easily produced at a high quality and an affordable price tag. This is something I can only afford to do with good partners in the mass fashion arena.

LZ: We are so close to wrapping up 2012. What can we expect from The Toledo's in the near future?

Toledo: I have a few new collaborations that are in the works, but it's too early to announce anything yet. I cannot wait to share them! Both Ruben and I are preparing new works for an installation at the Boston Museum of Fine Art in 2014.

Ruben is working on a new line of hand painted furniture for Pucci and a new book with Karl Lagerfeld. Of course, I got involved in both projects since I get to play with both of them.

Rosy Cordero is a contributing writer for and the Editor in Chief of her own blogg:


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