Isabel Toledo Dies at 59

Isabel Toledo, the Cuban-American designer who was revered by other designers for her ability to combine precise geometric construction with extreme grace — but who was known to most of the public as the creator of the dress Michelle Obama wore in the 2009 inaugural parade — died on Monday at a hospital in Manhattan. She was 59.

Uninterested in the limelight or in logos, Ms. Toledo was a rarity in the modern fashion world. Devoted to fashion as a craft and an expression of self and embedded in the Downtown New York art scene, she was a throwback to a time before the designer became the creative director. She toiled away in a picturesque loft in Midtown Manhattan with Mr. Toledo, her partner since high school, dipping into the worlds of art, dance and theater for the sheer joy of aesthetic collaboration. They hung out with Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and the like.

Called a genius by Valerie Steele, the curator of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and a cult hero by Kim Hastreiter, a founder of Paper magazine, Ms. Toledo has been compared to the designers Charles James and Geoffrey Beene because of her obsession with construction. She described her own work as “romantic mathematics.”


Mellissa Miller