Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: Isabel Toledo, Fashion from the Inside Out

Title: Isabel Toledo, Fashion from the Inside Out
Authors: Valerie Steele and Patricia Mears
Publisher: Yale University Press in association with FIT (New York) 2009
Category: Non-fiction (Fashion)
Number of Pages: 250

Designer Isabel Toledo was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Museum at FIT this summer (June 17 through September 26, 2009). Having attended the exhibition a few weeks ago (during my blogging hiatus), I was blown away by the huge talent of this largely unheralded designer. Her sculptural fashion designs must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Nevertheless, the high quality of the exhibition made me lust after the accompanying book.

Isabel Toledo, From the Inside Out, was co-written by Valerie Steele and Patricia Mears. Steele tells Toledo's story, from her Cuban roots through her ups and downs as a fashion designer to the triumphant day when Michelle Obama wore an Isabel Toledo ensemble to her husband's inauguration. In the second half of the book, Mears presents an analysis of the thematic designs in the exhibition including: Suspension, Liquid Architecture, Shadow, Shape, Manipulated Surfaces, and Organic Geometry.

Illustrated with exquisite photographs, this book is not just a pretty picture book. Both Steele and Mears write thoughtful, comprehensive and well-written analyses of Toledo and her work. I also gained a new appreciation for Isabel Toledo's designs. The integrity with which she approaches her designs, ignoring trends and the fashion cycle to instead embracing her own artistic vision, made me wish I had access to her clothing in Toronto. This is the kind of book that I'll look at and reread many times, especially when I'm short of inspiration.

P.S. If you can make it to the exhibition before it closes next weekend, you won't be disappointed!!

Isabel Toledo, Fashion from the Inside Out
June 17th - September 26th, 2009

The Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27th Street
New York City, 10001-5992