I thought it was a good idea to start 2015 off with a new designer crush lol which is exactly what happened after I finished reading Roots of Style, the memoirs of Isabel Toledo filled with artwork from her husband, Ruben Toledo.
It was such an inspiring story about love, following your instincts and trusting your individuality and discovering your own personal style signature. Honestly, I wasn’t very familiar with Isabel before reading this. I’d seen Ruben’s work plenty of times and even own a few books he illustrated, but after referencing images of them for a photoshoot, I became intrigued by their style and ordered the book.. and now I will without a doubt be a lifelong fan.
I am always going on (preaching to the choir, I know, I know) about how different the world is now. Social media is a beast that will never die and has changed everything about the way everything happens. I cannot deny that I am obsessed with documenting every detail of my life in a way that our parents were not able to do, but I have to wonder if all that exposure and accessibility to so many things is good?
I love learning about creative people who really grew into who they are from an early age. That recognized the interests they had as a child and how those interests and hobbies morphed into skills that shaped them into the individuals they are today.
Reading about how Isabel and Ruben met and did the whole struggling artist thing in the old New York (that I love to read about) and met developed friendships with iconic artists, designers, editors, etc. through various jobs and mutual friends was so deliciously refreshing, because I feel like that doesn’t happen anymore.
Everyone is a designer, everyone has a magazine, everyone, everyone, everyone. Everything is exclusive and limited edition and one-of-a-kind — which to me makes it seem like nothing is.
I loved reading about their partnership and her first fashion shows and how after many years she decided to jump off the endless wheel of pumping out shows every season so that she could focus on her work and more learning.
I love how she gave herself time to figure out what she was going to do in the begininning. She tried a bunch of different jobs, all while continuing to work on her designs (because it was like breathing) all of which she took little pieces from that helped her significantly in the end. Everything didn’t have a purpose or a plan. It just flowed, like her style. I could go on and on, so I won’t. But here are my favorite quotes:
If you can stay in love and keep your enthusiasm for what you choose to do with your life, you are living well indeed. Always keep in mind that patterns in life repeat themselves, so make a decision to own the patterns you want to keep.
Whether I was making a dress or Ruben was drawing a boat, we had both seen in ourselves, and in each other, that your creativity is your voice. It deserves to be sung often and at the top of your lungs.
You can make no better investment than spending time with your own ideas. Your generosity in granting time to yourself will be well rewarded. Doing this on your own time and by yourself is paramount to learning how to follow your own instincts and discovering your originality. Anything new, whether it’s a dress, a song, or a painting, will not be easily understood right away— sometimes not even by yourself, the creator. You have to feel free to be misunderstood and allow time to work its magic.
IF YOU GET UNDERSTOOD TOO EARLY, MAYBE YOU’VE SAID IT ALL.
…Besides the financial difficulties, Ruben had gotten a bit of advice from Andy Warhol, who told him to quit school. “Just do what you already do, but bigger, and you’ll be fine,” Andy said. So Ruben did just that and never looked back.
After high school graduation, I stopped seeing Ruben as often. It is curious that, when a piece of a pattern in your life suddenly goes missing, every other piece comes undone.
There is no truer fact than that you never really know the person you are with. But, better than knowing is having confidence in not knowing.
Staying raw means leaving room in your life for the unexpected and unperfected. The raw in you is often the most sincere response. There will be enough time later to refine and edit, but to keep the raw flowing, all of your life is a treasure. When your life partner appreciates the raw in you, too, that’s divine.
Art reflects life, and life reflects art, so this was love at its fullest. This very nurturing time was the essence of what it means to grow into yourself and into each other, separate but ver together, and to intertwine like two healthy vines.
We grew up in a very inclusive moment in time, one where the vibrant society around us was truly a diverse, democratize quilt. you were not defined by your age, race, sexual preference, bank account, or education. what counted most was your individual creativity. your personal spark of genius—however you might express it—that was your identity.
During this time, we were caught up in the washing machine of life, being spun round and round by our circumstances. We had no specific mold to break out of, but no time to be idle, either. We were buddy generating our own existence with no time for reflection. We had only the raw ideas. There was no time for perfecting things yet, or even polishing up our thoughts. All of that was yet to come.
All ideas have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is sometimes a very raw place. Your imagination needs to be free of editing. The urge to create should never be burdened with perfection. This is the importance of appreciating every stage of your life and work. You will never be in the exact same place again. These raws seeds you will nurture to fruition soon enough.
Since I was so busy working and sewing my life had to become as simplified and easy as possible. I was the opposite of a high-maintenance woman: I effortlessly adopted the concept of a closet for two and put to work my theory of a “streamlined me.”
When you’re an artist, there is no map to tell you which way to fly or safely net to catch you. Art is about discovery, invention, and the way you define your vision.
While reading on my flight home from New York I wrote this note to myself: it’s not what you do. it’s who it makes you. You are not what you do. I finally understand “the woman I wanted to be” … who knows what I’ll end up doing. Probably something I never thought of, BUT I know it will end up with me traveling around constantly all over the world, with a quiet homebase in a fun city with a great group of friends and a man I love.