Isabel Toledo is a Cuban-born American designer, beloved in the fashion world but a relative unknown outside of it. She's been designing for 25 years and, except for a brief but celebrated tenure at Anne Klein, has been creating strictly on her own terms -- and always with her husband Ruben at her side. (Their partnership is the stuff of legend.)

Isabel credits her Cuban roots for her sense of style, "my culture taught me the beauty of the female form and the importance of clothing that flatters and enhances a woman's shape and allows her to move freely," and considers herself a seamstress above all. Her work was considered too avant-garde for the American mass market -- that is, of course, until Michelle Obama chose to wear her dress for the inaugural. Now everybody wants to know everything about her, and why not? She's glamorous, mysterious and an American original!

Simon Doonan Dishes on Isabel Toledo

    We asked Simon Doonan, creative director at Barneys New York and author of Eccentric Glamour, to tell us more about his friend -- and he was happy to oblige.

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    What type of woman wears Isabel Toledo's clothes?
    In the past it was a fashion insider who understood the subtlety. Now all bets are off. She is a household name. It's only a matter of time before even I will be caught in a Toledo frock.

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    You have known Isabel for years. Have you heard from her since the inaugural? How did you celebrate the fact that Mrs. Obama chose her design?
    We celebrated at Barneys by giving her all the windows - A TOLEDO HOMAGE! - at our Madison Avenue store and at Barneys around the country. We have been emailing since the inaugural. She is slightly busy right now. We will catch up later.

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    You've always said that the clothes you wear send a message. What message do you think Michelle Obama is sending by choosing to wear Isabel Toledo? Does this signal a paradigm shift in the presidency, a new world order - or are we reading too much into this?
    I think Michelle Obama responded to the charming subtlety of Isabel's designs.

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    Do you think that Michelle Obama is a glamorous eccentric? If so, what type?
    I hope not. I would say she is a glamorous highly-educated pragmatist. Eccentrics are not great in positions of power. Does the world Caligula mean anything to you?

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