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It takes quite a talent to coax busy bee designers out of their studios two days before the official start of New York Fashion Week for a two hour plus meal. But on Wednesday afternoon, Isabel Toledo accomplished said feat when she was presented with the 2008 Couture Council of the Museum of FIT’s Award for Artistry of Fashion at a Cuban-themed luncheon at the Rainbow Room. It certainly was a long road, according to her proud husband, Ruben Toledo.

“I’ve been telling her to quit for years,” he said as he snapped away with his own mini camera. “It’s so hard, fashion.” Thankfully, his concerns were to no avail.

“It’s like speaking for me,” explained Isabel of her passion for designing. “It would be like telling me never to speak again.”

Over Cuban-style sea bass with coconut rice, editors and an eclectic mix of guests like Lisa Airan, Fabiola Beracasa, Matthew Modine (with wife Cari, in Toledo’s design), Sarah Wynter, Becca Cason Thrash, Lyn Devon, Edmundo Castillo and even the ever elusive Helmut Lang were treated to a performance by Joey Arias, who serenaded the honoree with a rendition of Billie Holiday’s “You’ve Changed,” a career slide show narrated by emcee Simon Doonan and a slew of speeches before Andre Leon Talley presented Toledo with the award.

And while many in the 500 person crowd donned one of Toledo’s creations, a few guests were unable to oblige——at least for now.

“I would wear drag for Isabel, if she designed me a dress,” joked Narciso

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