Reverlavie – Comic The Multiverse Madness T-Shirt

As part of SCAD Lacoste’s 20th anniversary celebrations, the school’s museum is putting on the first posthumous exhibition of Isabel Toledo’s work. “Love Letter” highlights the collaboration between the late designer–best known for creating Michelle Obama’s Inauguration ensemble–and her artist husband Ruben. Isabel, explains curator Christina Frank, encouraged Ruben, who worked extensively in black and white, to add color to his repertoire, and the exhibition represents those two spectra. Most of the pieces on exhibition are from the 2000s, an era that is being deeply mined at the present. Here, Ruben Toledo talks to us about his and Isabel’s connection to France, and what defines American fashion. It’s really still painful for me to even think about a future without Isabel, but I want to honor her work, and I love that SCAD is honoring her work. The sharing of her design ideas and her philosophy are important to me; that’s my mission now. I’m still mourning Isabel and I’m mourning the couple [that we were], the Toledos. That couple [is gone], so I’m their custodian. I’m here to work and make sure their archives and their body of work remain pertinent and important and shared with the next generation. What aspects of that work do you think is most highlighted in this show? I think [the curators] picked pieces that illustrated how [Isabel’s] engineering and her smartness in construction is always super evident, how smart her clothes are made and designed, and structured to ‘set it and forget it.’ They’re so perfectly made, you don’t have to think about them anymore; you can almost wear them inside out, front to back, and they work.

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Isabel always said she dressed emotion. The way Isabel really expressed emotions in cloth and in how things were made. If something was delicate or strong or aggressive or fragile, she liked addressing everyone’s emotions. It allowed women to keep expressing themselves and [did the same for] herself. So I think that is the highlight. And the idea that we’re using Isabel’s quotes and some of my writings about Isabel; there are personal notebooks and sketchbooks involved. We wanted to touch on how fashion, at its height, and good design is more than just engineering, it’s also emotion, and it’s also personal relationships. It feeds the heart as well as the mind. [Fashion] has to live in the world and it has to serve you. I think the fact that we worked with costumes early on, whether it was our performer friends, like Klaus Nomi, or with choreographers, like Twyla Tharp or Bill T. Jones, we understood the difference between costume and real clothes. Sometimes costumes could be stunning, but it’s a costume, it’s a facade, but so much can be learned from a facade that you can then interpret for real life. [But fashion] must function, Isabel was very conscious of that. It has to live in your closet and you have to want to wear it often. Isabel [also knew how to rise to] those special occasion moments where, yeah, you’re going to wear this [look] and you want to look stunning, and you’re not going to sit down; she understood that too. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about is the dressmaking tradition in Latin America and in Spain. It seems like a more collaborative process than couture. Isabel considered herself always a seamstress first, then a designer. She always said, ’I’m a seamstress.’ And I remember her telling that to Karl [Lagerfeld] and Karl was like, ‘You’re more than a seamstress, you’re a couturiere!’ But her idea was that she was of service, of service to herself and of service to women and clients. There is a collaboration between the person who’s going to wear it and you, but ultimately the seamstress, or the couturiere, is of service. But I guess in our minds, since we’re artists, it’s taken for granted that we have a vision, it’s taken for granted that we have an ideal in mind. Even if your client says, ‘I just want something really simple that I can sit down in for hours,’ you’re still going to give her that other thing she doesn’t know she wants, which is your vision. That’s where the poetry comes in. I find a lot of poetry in Isabel’s patterns. Part of the exhibition is my ink work based on Isabel’s patterns because her patterns blow my mind, still. When I look at the pattern pieces…they’re these graphic symbols. Sometimes they resemble bugs, sometimes they resemble personag

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