Tuesday night I had the pleasure of going to Mass Art to see Isabel and Ruben Toledo speak. The two have worked in tandem creatively their whole lives and through a mediated talk with Christopher Muther, I learned all about their work and their life together. What struck me the most is how deeply, deeply in love they are. Since the age of 13 Isabel has been designing clothes and Ruben has been illustrating them and they still look at each other like there is no one else in the room. Here are some pieces of their wisdom that particularly struck me.
Be Quiet When Everyone Else is Shouting
Isabel talked quite a bit about how she stopped showing at fashion week in 1998. She said that being in the tents didn’t feel like the right place for her, and that in a time when everyone was shouting and jostling for attention, she wanted to be quiet. She went back to her studio in New York City and worked on her projects internally. To this day, she and Ruben create everything from that single studio. They are artists, not manufacturers, and every piece they make is an artwork. By stepping back from the crowd, Isabel was able to find her own path and flourish in her own space.
Never Stop Creating
Isabel and Ruben have been working creatively their whole lives. Isabel began sewing at the age of 8, and says she has never stopped. Both of them got jobs in New York early on and just continued to work at it. Ruben stresses that the most important thing is to keep working. He says that even when it seems like his work is terrible, it is a growing experience. I have found that when I’m not working on a creative project I become very unhappy, so Ruben and Isabel’s words really got to me. Ruben emphasizes that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, drawing, painting, sculpting, designing- just keep doing it.
Work Hard, and Do What You Love
Isabel and Ruben are incredibly hard workers, and you can tell from the way they talk. Isabel says that it took her a long time to step back and name her collections because she was always too busy making them. The couple says that you should work hard, and do what you love. When they were young and Isabel was interning for Diana Vreeland, Ruben took some of her designs to a store one day. The store liked what they saw and commissioned an order from Isabel. She worked day and night to personally sew every garment for the store. It was incredibly hard work, but she was doing what she loved and from that order sprang many more.
Coming from a family of artists and hard workers, Isabel and Ruben’s advice really resonated with me. This has become a world where everyone is trying to be different and creative, everyone is jostling for the spotlight. Isabel and Ruben confirmed for me that if I keep doing what I love, work hard at it, and stay true to myself, I can succeed. Even in a world where everyone else is trying to do the same.
Photos by Rebecca Isenhart.