Life Models: Isabel and Rubén Toledo

For some, a charmed existence is a farmhouse in a rolling pastoral with kids. For others, it may be an airy, industrial live-work loft on Broadway in Manhattan for a creative husband-and-wife (or better put, wife-and-husband) team. The latter is Isabel and Rubén Toledo’s life. They have four floors; one is Rubén’s painting studio, and the other three are for Isabel’s fashion design studio and production. More importantly, they collaborate and they’re passionately in love, gently finishing each others’ sentences on a recent episode of Studio 360.* This is the kind of love story that makes my heart ache.

I’ve had quite a few conversations with other female artists about how to balance life and work, especially when that work is a creative passion without any guarantee of remuneration. I’ve even found myself co-miserating that romantic love and artistic passion might be incompatible. But two people grow and change, and while you can’t always pedal at the same speed in the same direction, we have to be grateful for the times we catch up and cruise alongside our mates. The Toledos’ story is an immigrant success story, an American fashion legend, a tale of love. If you’re not familiar with it, peep this 2008 profile in the New Yorker:

She does the cooking in a tiny alcove, and he brews the Cuban coffee. They have Sunday brunch together, lingering over it for hours, and at night, if they don’t feel like going out, Ruben said, “we put some cha-cha or rumba music on and boogie around by ourselves. We’re both great dancers.”


*I know, two posts in a row inspired by public radio. Take heart—heavy podcast usage, for me, indicates intensive studio production.  I also loved this quote from Rubén Toledo on Studio 360:

We’re not buyers and sellers, we’re makers.


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