Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ruben (and Isabel!) Toledo

Just to make up for a missing post, I’ll write about Ruben Toledo, my favorite fashion illustrator.

He’s married to his childhood friend, Isabel Toledo, who is a fashion designer, and also is originally from Cuba. The two met in middle school, while in New Jersey, and began dating after high school graduation. Ruben went on to the School of Visual Arts while Isabel went to Parsons.

Together, the couple inspires each other- Ruben sketches ideas for his clients, including Nordstrom, The New Yorker, Harper’s while Isabel designs and sews her own fashion collections. Ruben got his start, after marrying Isabel in 1984, as a window display designer at Fiorucci, a fashion store in New York. Currently, he produces paintings and illustrations for a variety of mediums- from store installations (Barney’s) to perfume bottles (Estee Lauder) and book covers (Penguin) as well as illustrations for Nina Garcia’s fashion books. The couple tends to wear clothes exclusively designed by Isabel and their apartment is decorated with Ruben’s images, so for them, life and art blend together.

I was initially introduced to his style through ads that I saw in Vogue for Nordstrom and I was immediately captivated by his highly stylized images of women wearing designer clothing. Typically, a store would run photographs of their collections, but instead, Ruben’s incredibly detailed depictions of fashion create interest in the product. In fact, I’m much more drawn to his art than the actual purse or dress because he gives it a personality that just isn’t captured in a photograph. Ruben has also dabbled in caricatures, with incredible gestural lines and the bold colors that are featured in most of his work.

I think that Ruben Toledo is a prime example of an artist who doesn’t limit himself- he explores all facets of the fashion world and creates art that is easy to interact with, with some help from Isabel.


  1. It would appear that one of his primary influences could be Al Hirschfeld's caricatures. Composition is one of his strong suits, even in the installation work the viewer's eye is directed around the image to a focal point. I also enjoy the narrative quality of his images. It would be interesting to see when these images were created for the sake of comparing his style shifts over time, or if he approaches different projects with different visual styles.

  2. In a world saturated with fashion photography, an occasional fashion illustration for a cover really stands out. I like his lines in those last images where he seems to have made backdrops for the models.

    Him and his wife seem like a cute couple, and it has to be extremely beneficial to have someone around that you can bounce ideas off of 24/7 and inspire each other.