Isabel Toledo is A “Plus” for Lane Bryant

Isabel Toledo for Lane Bryant white black double faced
T wrap coat, domino sheath dress

It’s no secret that the plus size market has long been neglected by the fashion industry. By right, the often larger than life persona’s that inhabit this insular world, (with their over sized egos), should be embracing everything that is large. But judging from the way the plugged in fashion flock has feverishly embraced teeny tiny bags (which have been downsized to mini me proportions as of late), many are apparently sticking to their beliefs that good things come in small packages. Of course, for some, bigger is better, and to prove the point, one of fashion’s most well respected and revered designers, Isabel Toledo, has joined forces with Lane Bryant for their first fashion collaboration.The result? An exclusive collection sized from 14 – 28,

Isabel Toledo silver tweed inside out trench coat
and cropped trousers

It was unveiled last evening during the course of a formal runway show, and I was wondering if her choice of the iconic Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and Phillip Johnson designed Seagram Building (it had been hailed as a modern architectural masterpiece) as her venue of choice, was at the very least, symbolic. After all, she’s helping to ‘rebuild’ Lane Bryant’s image; Isabel’s designs are sculptural and architectural; and she spent her early years surrounded by tools (rivets, studs, hammers, wrenches): hence her fascination with “spatial construction”. As she told Vogue during the course of an interview in 1995, “My designs are not about clothing but about building.” “I’m always thinking in 3-D”.

As it turns out, the sprawling 11th floor space where the show was held, is currently unoccupied and is being rented out for events (so much for creative deductions). Speaking of Vogue, Anna Wintour is reportedly doing a feature on the collection in Vogue’s upcoming April Issue, and to say that is not often that a plus sized line is given those honors is an understatement (I can’t say I recall when it happened last). I guess Anna understands the potential advertisement windfall that would result from tapping into such a large overlooked demographic

Isabel Toledo Chantilly lace poet shirt

As for the clothes? Isabel kept to her chic and signature color palette: black, white, cream, stone, gray; accented with hits of metallic gunmetal, silver, and gold; and shots of strong color (mandarin orange and sapphire blue). There is no question that the standouts could best be described as, well, signature Isabel: the pieces that are always building blocks of her collections, regardless of the size they are made in. So, by definition, that would mean great shirts and shirt dresses (a color blocked shirt dress which could be a tunic or stand alone, and the black white Toledo Jazz print shirt dress stood out); lace and lace trim (there were a group of black lace trimmed and stretch lace dresses and one black Chantilly lace poet shirt looked especially good); draped front matte jersey dresses (whether in black or mandarin orange); and of course, coats. Best were the silver tweed inside out trench coat with black organza lining, black taffeta t shirt and silver tweed cropped trouser;  and the “T” wrap coats in black and white and black and tan, both shown over dresses. And at a time when there are so many wonderful art inspired face prints, let’s not forget that Isabel’s illustrator husband, Ruben, has been doing whimsical face prints for years, and one of them has been translated onto a stone charmeuse top.

Isabel Toledo stone charmeuse with
Ruben Toledo face print top

The models wore their hair pulled back in buns as to not distract from the clothes, and other than a few statement making bangles, she wisely under accessorized, using only big sunglasses, extra-long hombre chiffon scarves tied backwards around the necks, great shoes (everything from high heeled pointy toed single soled pumps to of the moment heavy platform sandals), and of course, plenty of attitude. At one point, one of the models kept falling down in her high heels, eventually removed them and was finally able to walk (and the audience applauded in approval).

You know how everyone always criticizes fashion shows for being exclusionary? Well, Isabel’s models represented different ethnic groups and a range of heights, sizes, and shapes. Come to think of it, the only group left out was the “skinnies”. By the way, on each seat there was a roomy trompe l’oeil tote in graphic black and white, and inside, an over-sized lace front tee, (both from the collection), as well as a copy of Isabel’s captivating autobiography, “Isabel Toledo: Roots of Style”.

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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