Until lunchtime yesterday, Isabel Toledo was a relatively unknown, niche, designer's designer. That all changed when Michelle Obama stepped out in her first inaugural outfit: a matching ‘lemongrass' coat and dress custom-made from Swiss wool lace backed with netting for warmth and lined in French silk. About 13 people in Isabel's studio worked on the outfit over the Christmas holidays. ‘Chinese ladies, Polish ladies, Spanish ladies – I have a picture of everyone working on her clothes,' Isabel has explained. ‘I wanted to pick a very optimistic colour that had sunshine. I wanted her to feel charmed and to charm everyone.' Not that Isabel knew Michelle would be wearing her designs in advance. The First Lady is famous for keeping her clothing choices secret, something Jason Wu, who designed her evening gown, also discovered – he only found out she was wearing his design when he saw her on TV. Isabel's husband, Ruben Toledo, said, ‘We're levitating – we really are,' of the couple's response as they watched Michelle make her Washington entrance on TV from their studio. ‘We had no idea. We hoped she would wear something because she has brought Isabel's clothes before.' That occasion was last June, when Michelle wore an Isabel Toledo tunic and trousers teamed with Tom Binns jewellery for a New York fundraiser (below). So what does this mean for the husband-and-wife design team? ‘We're all grateful for this opportunity,' Isabel said. ‘And we don't even have a PR person!' Somehow, after Michelle's endorsement, we think the fashion couple won't be needing one...
Isabel Toledo on designing Michelle's inauguration outfit
21 January 2009
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