I've been a fan of Ruben Toledo's fashion illustrations since his work first began appearing in the pages of Details back in the Eighties (this was in the Annie Flanders days, when Details was still a hip downtown NYC mag featuring the work of newcomers like Bill Cunningham, Anito Sarko, Patrick McMullan and Stephen Saban). Ruben's illustrations were like nothing I'd ever seen before: whimsical, fabulous, funny and full of pointed social commentary that often seemed to skewer the very subjects—and styles—that he was illustrating so beautifully. I've followed his work ever since, avidly collecting his books (Style Dictionary, Sweetie: Tantalizing Tips from a Furry Fashionista, his illustrated Penguin Classics Deluxe editions of The Scarlet Letter, Pride and Prejudice, Dracula, etc., and happily reserving my copy of Ruben Toledo: Fashionation back in 2009, which Steidl still has yet to publish).
So it was with true joy that I received a copy of Ruben Toledo's Fashion Almanac as a gift from my very thoughtful sister. The book chronicles Ruben's 10-year collaboration with Nordstrom (those are his illustrations you see in Nordstrom's ads) and is dubbed an Almanac because fashion, like the seasons, "change, morph and transition continuously," as Ruben writes in his intro. And, "like the endless cycle of nature, an Almanac documents and links the past with the present, building the bridge to the future." Which is exactly what this book does, in glorious illustration after glorious illustration. Along with cheerful spreads that pay tribute to the four seasons and include fun facts about each ("Optimists are born in the spring," "Snow is not white, but clear or transparent, and behaves like a prism reflecting colors"), this Almanac offers a glimpse at a decade's worth of style from designers both emerging (Jenni Kayne, Sinha-Stanic, Y & Kei, Gryphon) and established (Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Marc Jacobs, YSL, Alexander McQueen). There's also an intro by Anna Wintour and a history of the Seattle-based retailer, along with a "Nordstrom Fashion Wheel" that allows the reader to spin two discs to match (or mismatch, as is one's wont) the top and bottom halves of a dozen different outfits as illustrated by the uber-talented Mr. Toledo.
Throughout, I was continuously amazed and in awe of the author's creativity, wit and wonderfully idiosyncratic take on the wild and woolly world of style. The book opens with the following disclaimer: "This fashion almanac is a work of the imagination of Ruben Toledo and is not to be believed and not intended to be taken literally." But truth be told, his is a chic and cheeky paradise in which I would gladly spend the remainder of my days.
illustrations courtesy Ruben Toledo/Nordstrom; photo of Ruben Toledo at home courtesy The Selby