'Toledo loves fashion, but he is also wonderfully cynical in the best sense of the boulevardier, the same role he assumes in lilfe, walking amidst the fashion world with a dandy's fascination and poise.' (Richard Martin)
Ruben Toledo paints, sculpts, illustrates and draws. His work has been exhibited in museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the textile museum at the Louvre and the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He has also produced murals for an exhibition, curated by Richard Martin, on the shifting wasitline in dress at the Costume Institute.
Toledo and his wife, the internationally renowned fashion designer Isabel, have collaborated together for more than 15 years. An exhibition of their works 'a Marriage of Art and Fashion' has been on tour in the USA since 2000. Toledo's fashion illustrations have appeared in magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Details, Paper, Visionaire, L'Uomo Vogue and the New York Times. He is the author of his own book, 'The Style Dictionary' ( Abbeville Press, 1997).
His fluid and witty illustrations are incorporated in the Spectres exhibition, not only as flat paintings on walls and installations, but as large wooden silhouettes which cast looming, distorted shadows that create a feeling of haunting.
Ruben Toledo, Vivienne Westwood for Paper magazine, 1998
Sometimes biting, and always humorous, Cuban-born artist Ruben Toledo creates surreal and witty fashion illustrations. With a style evocative of Beardsley, he is one of the most prolific and talented illustrators working today
Isabel and Ruben Toledo A Marriage of Art and Fashion
Enter Isabel and Ruben Toledo's world and find two highly talented individuals working in synergy. Muse to her husband's sculpture, painting and illustration, Isabel Toledo conceives of shapes and structures to clothe the human body. Complementarily, Ruben Toledo's surreal view of life brings humor and unconventionality to her industrial world.
Born in Cuba one year apart from each other, Isabel and Ruben met while attending high school in New Jersey. They married soon afterwards, and entered the New York fashion world almost immediately. Strongly anchored in Cuban culture yet highly individualistic, both approach their craft with passion. From her American upbringing, Isabel gained an appreciation of machinery, practicality and comfort while retaining a love for traditional elegance. Ruben's irrational, instinctive approach to art fused with American popular culture, exploding in playful, incisive and intensely surreal observations on fashion, beauty and life.
After decades of mutually inspired creative endeavor, the couple refuses to be categorized or assimilated by the establishment. An idiosyncratic figure in the American and European fashion world, Isabel stopped presenting bi-annual collections in 1998 after twelve years of intense production. Today she creates at her own pace, testing the results until they meet her standards of excellence, and furthering her investigations into concepts close to her heart. Effortless at first glance, her garments are actually painstakingly engineered to be fluid and comfortable and to feel familiar. Even the elaborate spinning helixes, suspended shapes and geometrical constructions are anchored with both pragmatism and poetry. A multi-faceted artist, Ruben Toledo is the master of several media. His best-known work delights in the absurdity, audacity and charisma of the fashion world. Unlike many illustrators, he adds wit and perspective to the representation of the human figure.
Entwined in the same universe but respecting their separate talents, Isabel and Ruben Toledo draw sustenance from each other's abilities, strengths and esthetic beliefs. Freedom of thought is their common ground.
Portrait of Isabel by Ruben Toledo, 1993 Oil on canvas
Fashion Illustration by Ruben Toledo for Details Magazine, August 1988, " 7th Ave. Says Women Will Wear Nothing But Pants This Fall Season", Pencil on paper
Isabel Toledo's Suspender Dresses by Ruben Toledo, 1997 Watercolor
Mosaic for the Beverly Hills' Barney's department store by Ruben Toledo
Perched atop a turn-of-the-century building in midtown, artist Ruben Toledo and fashion designer Isabel Toledo have created an atelier that feels like a fantasyland.
We would look up into the sky,” remembers Isabel Toledo, “and see this beautiful temple.” She’s talking about the midtown Manhattan loft space in which she and her husband, Ruben, now live, but could only gaze at from the pavement as they walked home from work in 1995. After spying the apartment again while house-hunting across the street, they secured their dream the same year.
When the Toledos finally entered the space, it looked more like a flophouse than the light-filled sanctuary of theirdreams. “It was like archaeology working on this place,” Isabel says. The 300-square-foot upstairs room was originally divided into three, with a dropped ceiling that covered half the giant windows. Moldy carpeting smothered the magnificent terrazzo floors. And the skylit great room below looked “dark, dungeony, basement-like,” says Isabel with a shudder. It took the couple nine months to reveal the apartment’s beautiful bones. Then they filled it with an organic collection of inherited furniture and their own artwork.
The Toledos’ fates have been intertwined since their families fled Cuba separately in the late sixties, and the couple ended up attending the same high school in New Jersey. Isabel became a fashion designer whose eponymous clothing line is followed by everyone from Karl Lagerfeld to Paper magazine editor Kim Hastreiter. Ruben started out doing windows for Fiorucci, was discovered by Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, and now paints and does commissions—a mural for Tiffany & Co., a perfume bottle for Estée Lauder, a Website for Nordstrom. Together, they have established the ideal live-work situation: Isabel takes the elevator down to her workrooms on the lower floors, while Ruben spreads out his paintings beneath the skylight upstairs.
A penthouse disguised as a dingy basement has been restored to its former glory by the vision of two artists who simply went with their gut. “I need to feel space above my head.” Isabel gestures with her hands over her head. “I need to feel the sky is the limit. Literally!”
THE MEZZANINE (1.) Originally, there was a small loft area above the kitchen. Ruben and Isabel extended it to accommodate a balcony for Ruben’s bookshelves and a sleeping area. Both the mezzanine bookshelves and the remodeled kitchen below were designed by Philip Cozzi.
(2.) The Hula Hoops
Used by Isabel for exercise.
Where Ruben works on an upcoming book of his artwork, to be published this fall by Karl Lagerfeld and Steidl, as well as illustrated advertising for clients.
(1.) The Lamp Shade
Painted by Ruben and used in a Barneys New York window displaying Isabel’s clothes.
By Chris Lehrecke, whose furniture is available through Ralph Pucci International.
(3.) The Cactus
A part of the family, and something of a guard dog. When Woody Allen used the loft as a location for his film Melinda and Melinda, the one thing the crew was asked not to do was move it. They ignored the warning. The cactus retaliated by falling on one of the stars, sending her to the emergency room.
(4.) The Skylight
Comes with amazing views of the Empire State Building.
(5.) The Paintings
Are all by Ruben. This watercolor is a study of a grasshopper Isabel found last summer on their garden terrace.
(6.) The Easels
A hand-me-down collection given to Ruben by friends.
(7.) The Mannequins
Display Isabel’s designs-in-progress.
THE BEDROOM (1.) The Window
Added by the Toledos and designed by Philip Cozzi.
(2.) The Collage
Made by Ruben from Isabel’s hair cuttings.
(3.) The Streetlights
A gift from a friend, they came from the Watergate Hotel in Washington.
(4.) The Screens
Originally designed by Ruben for the Toledos’ friend Anneliese Estrada, and retrieved when she moved.
DINING-WORKROOM (1.) The Watercolors
Ceramic teapots, painted by Ruben for a series of fantasy home-design products.
(2.) The Door Frame
Was concealed by an ugly metal door when the Toledos moved in.
(3.) The Iron Railing
Original to the loft.
(4.) The Mannequin
Designed by Ruben for Ralph Pucci International. He painted the graffiti later.
(1.) The Table and Chairs
A gift from the late illustrator Antonio Lopez, as is the console by the wall.
(2.) The Chair Jackets
Designed by Isabel to hide the scratches of the previous owner’s cats, they’re like little vests that slip over the chairs.