Ines Di Santo: Making Dreams Come True
A wedding dress is special — after all, what other item of clothing do you wear just once? Designer Ines Di Santo gets it, as she creates glamorous custom gowns that grace brides around the world on their special day. What makes her gowns so special? Perhaps it’s the love she pours into each and every one. “Every time I design a collection, I put my life into it,” she says. So when Dolce’s own Estelle Zentil said, “Yes!” she knew exactly who to call.
Ines Di Santo certainly comes by her passion honestly, ever since she was a little girl growing up in Buenos Aires. Her mother tailored men’s shirts, and her father was a designer creating covers at a fashion magazine. “I was fascinated when my father used to bring me the magazine,” she says. She pictured her doll in the fashions and thought about fabrics that could be used, then put pen to paper, making her own designs, creating her first dress for one of her dolls when she was only five years old.
“The Bride Should Feel Like The Most Important Woman In The World On Her Wedding Day”
Inside Di Santo’s head, the wheels were always turning, and her creativity was born of imagination, as when she decided one day to put her nine-month-old sister at the head of the table and pinned fabric all around her. “My mother almost had a heart attack,” she says. Di Santo cultivated a love for haute couture. She went on to study in Italy, then attended school in Paris, where she learned how to transform her ideas into fresh, modern creations with incredible attention to detail. In fact, one of her instructors, who had worked for Christian Dior, was always impressed with her work. “He used to say to me, ‘If Christian was alive, he would be very impressed with your ruching.’”
She attended the School of Arts of Buenos Aires, and later on, she started teaching in another school. She was able to teach for only one year before she immigrated to Canada. That wasn’t easy, when she found herself a recent immigrant and a single mother at 23 years old. She worked in a bridal salon, quietly nurturing her dream, and eventually the cream rises to the top. She was able to start her business with $10 and a sewing machine she’d found in the garbage. “This country gave me the opportunity to be who I am today,” she says. She launched her first bridal collection, which grew into a global success story. Today she is one of the most sought-after designers and her creations grace the catwalks, red carpets and even Washington’s Capitol Hill.
For Di Santo, the bride is the flower of the day, and, on her wedding day, she should feel like the most important woman in the world. She loves working directly with the bride, designing a custom dress only for her and always begins with a chat, “so I have the opportunity to understand the bride and see what she likes,” she says. And, in creating the dress, she makes the dream come true, which brings her tremendous satisfaction.
As for Estelle, it has been a dream to have her wedding dress designed by Di Santo. “I always knew that Ines’ design would be the one I would walk down the aisle in — she’s designing my two dresses for the most special day of my life,” says Estelle. “Her love of beauty and ability to find it everywhere, in any shape and form, is incredible to witness first-hand.”
For her wedding dress, Estelle had three references. First, her nonna’s wedding dress. Married in July 1955, her dress has a timeless look with its romantic Chantilly lace and elegant A-line shape. Second, Estelle was inspired by Grace Kelly’s gown at her wedding to Prince Rainier III in 1956, loving the V-shaped neckline, feminine lace details and the conservative nature of the gown. And then Estelle plucked a bit of fancy from her own baptismal gown. “My mother custom-made a baptism dress that had my name, a biblical reference, and baptism date embroidered onto it, and I loved the idea of embroidering part of my vows into the veil and onto the dress,” she says. The same quote that is engraved on their marriage bands (“I will love and honour you all the days of my life”) is also embroidered onto the veil.
For her second dress, Estelle wanted to wear something that would reflect her personality: colourful with a sense of happy-go-lucky and a little bit extravagant (cue puffed sleeve) that would speak to her love of flowers. In particular, she wanted the flowers on her dress to reflect the cherry blossom season in Japan. Because cherry blossoms bloom for only two weeks out of the year, the blooming flowers represent the transience of life and fleeting beauty, which reminds all of us to focus on living in the present, she adds. “I wanted my dress to be a reminder of this special season in my life,” she says. The dress includes such personal details that can only make it hers: red embroidery on the sleeve that reads “Forever & Always,” on the back collar “Wifey for Lifey,” and on the front “La Vie en Rose,” which ties into the red and white garden roses Estelle chose for the day.
“Love Is Very Important To Me. I Live Every Day Because I Love People”
Just as a marriage is a celebration of love, every dress that Di Santo creates is born of love. “You need the love of your husband, your mother, kids, friend and beyond,” she says. “Love is very important to me. I live every day because I love people.” She is inspired by her heritage, and it shows in her most recent collection. It is a culmination of her Italian background and all the beautiful flowers that bloom under the sun; the time she spent growing up in Argentina and the lace that is so popular there; elegant French flair that she picked up when she studied in Paris; and the intricate beading, a reflection of her time spent in Dubai.
Perhaps Di Santo’s greatest inspiration comes from her daughter, Veronica. “The biggest dream in my life was to have a daughter, and when she was born it was the happiest day of my life,” she says. Now they work together, “and she is an inspiration for me because we are mother and daughter. I do the design, and she does the business side.”
And that for Di Santo is la dolce vita. “It is this, it is today — it’s spending time with the family, family is No. 1,” she says. “And then to do whatever you like. Our job is important because it’s how we express ourselves.” When you have the love of family, you have everything, she adds.
Estelle agrees because she well knows the value of love. “To me, la dolce vita is all about family and love. And what a sweet honour it is to have Ines design a dress inspired by my nonna, in which I will marry the love of my life, becoming one as a new family.”