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The Coffee Table

The Beautiful Anarchist

A retrospective of "a designer's designer."

Book Cover Personally, the realization that much of what is hailed as fashion is actually fecal matter came as I noticed that recent sunglasses design (always a bellwether accessory) made people's visages resemble large houseflies. That and the incessant chirping of various augmented mutant rodents at the de rigueur red carpet for industrial gatherings--"Who are you wearing?"--represents fashion as a trend that may be interesting only in a sociological way.

Fashion as art is another story, and award-winning, Cuban-born designer Isabel Toledo, who has been variously referred to as "fashion contrarian" and "beautiful anarchist," is a powerful example of the possibility of creativity in contemporary fashion. As an artist known by that ambiguous designation "a designer's designer" and lacking the powerful publicity engine that creates all manner of brands, Toledo is beautifully represented in Isabel Toledo: Fashion From the Inside Out (Yale University Press), a well-produced monograph with 20 black-and-white and 300 color images. Valerie Steele and her colleague at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Patricia Mears, provide accessible essays explicating the process and context of Toledo's creativity.

By the way, the lemongrass two-piece ensemble worn by Michelle Obama for the inauguration ceremony was created by Toledo.
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