“Full Circle” is the ideal title for Isabel and Ruben Toledo’s exhibit at Miami’s Freedom Tower.
The power couple arrived as kids at the landmark building as political refugees from Cuba within one year of each other; she in 1968, he in 1967.
But it wasn’t until a few years later, when the future designer and artist met in high school in West New York, N.J.
Kismet, yes. But not love at first sight.
“Well, for me, it was,” said Ruben, while preparing their retrospective, which runs Dec. 6-Jan. 26, 2013, at the tower’s MDC Museum of Art + Design. “Just friends at first on her side. It took a couple of years of convincing.”
Attendees will get to see the NYC denizens’ most prized babies: Ruben’s cartoons, watercolors and illustrations and Isabel’s sketches as well as a pop-up closet filled with dresses actually worn by Michelle Obama. The first lady had been a fan before entering the White House; Isabel’s pieces were on the racks of one of Michelle’s favorite stores in Chicago, Ikram Goldman.
Alas, the famous lemongrass wool shift with matching coat Obama wore to her husband’s inauguration Jan. 20, 2009, won’t be there — it’s hanging in The National Archives — but the fond memories remain.
“For me, it was important that Michelle stood out,” said Isabel. “She couldn’t wear red, blue or black and be in the background. She was a symbol of a new chapter. I saw the fabric and the fresh color and I really fell in love. I think it really captured that.”
Added Ruben: “It was alchemy when that magic happened. Michelle was so incredibly radiant. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it on TV.”
Would Isabel dress Mrs. Obama again if she had the chance? Maybe, maybe not — even though the international exposure made her famous and led to successful lines at both Target and Payless.
“I hope someone else has that opportunity,” Isabel said. “I had that experience already, and believe me, it is a big moment.”
Ask the seriously dynamic duo all about it and other creative endeavors when they discuss their book, Roots of Style: Weaving Together Life, Love, and Fashion (Celebra, $25.95), 7 p.m. Sunday at the historic site as part of the Miami International Book Fair.