HSFI Honors Ruben and Isabel Toledo


Lauren David Peden

If I had any doubts that New York City is the fashion capital of America, they were laid to rest when I attended the HSFI (High School of Fashion Industries) senior show in Chelsea. The show also honored Ruben and Isabel Toledo, the dynamic duo known for their incredible fashion illustration (him) and fashion design (her).

Founded in 1926, HSFI is the only high school dedicated to fashion studies in the country (and perhaps, the world). The school’s Advisory Board reads like a Who’s Who of industry heavyweights, with folks from Lancôme, Allegri, ICP (International Center of Photography), Mandee, Geneva Watch Group, Saks Fifth Avenue, and The Fragrance Foundation supporting the students and school with materials, mentoring, and money.

Wednesday’s fashion show was a culmination of four years of hard work and study.

“I hope it’s because we’re sincere and we’re independent designers that do our best to uphold the amazing legend that is New York City creativity,” replied Ruben Toledo when I asked why he thought he and Isabel were being honored. “Because New York City is what made us: the streets, the people, the combination of things. So we hope that the kids are infused by that same idea and go forth and conquer!”

“We are a different voice in New York,” added Isabel. “I think it’s important that they see that we’ve been able to succeed in our own way. Fashion is about different voices and the individual, and I think it’s important that we recognize that. You don’t have to come into the business with the same structure as everybody else; you really have to have your own personal voice. And I hope they pick that up.”

It was clear from the runway show, which followed CNN’s Alina Cho presenting the Toledo tribute, that the students had received the message loud and clear.

The show was titled “Continental Couture,” and the students presented their looks in 10 different groupings, beginning with Caribbean Dance Hall Queen sportswear and ending with International Bridal gowns. In between, we were treated to Euro Military denim looks, Middle Eastern Harem lingerie, Latin Flair cocktail frocks, African Career wear, British-inspired street style, Asian eveningwear, and a paean to USA, Hawaii, and Alaskan swimwear, all of which were modeled by HSFI students. Then the music kicked up — “Rah, Rah, ah-ah-ah” — and the kids let loose with a really fun and creative Lady Gaga tribute (or GaGa International, as they called it).

All I can say is: There was a whole lotta talent on display here, and it’s a good thing that Parsons and FIT are just around the corner, because these college-bound fashionistas clearly have a very bright future.

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.


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