By Katherine Ellis
Photography by Tara West
Since she opened her first store in Toronto, Ines Di Santo has grown to become a Canadian evening gown and wedding dress magnet whose designs are sought all over the globe – from Canada to Dubai.
Di Santo was born in Italy, raised in Buenos Aires and she immigrated to Canada in the mid-70s. Her designs carry exotic flavours of her diverse background, creating romantic and light gowns. Working alongside her daughter Veronica, Di Santo’s creations have been worn by many lucky brides.
FAJO Magazine sat down with the designer for an exclusive interview at one of her studios in Canada.
You have lived in many different countries throughout your life. Have the areas you grew up in influenced the designs that you create?
Of course! As an Italian, art is very important to me. I grew up in Buenos Aires which is a very, very fashionable city, and I studied with a French teacher. That is, you know, who I am today – I have the Spanish, the Italian and the French [in me]! And Canada gave me the opportunity to express myself.
The majority of my materials are from Italy and the rest are from France. As I say all the time, the dress is not a dress, it is much more than that – it is a personality. I love beauty and I want to show beauty through my work.
When a client comes to you, what are they looking for?
They look for the experience with Ines Di Santo and the look of Ines Di Santo. We have many components in our dresses and they have a lot of details. The reason they have a lot of details is to show who you are. For example, if you choose a dress with lace that shows off the silhouette, and is fitted to your body, that piece will express that you are a very romantic person.
We have many customers from different cultures and different countries.
When did you first want to become a designer?
I was always fascinated by fashion. My mother used to have a small factory [in Buenos Aires]. She used to make shirts for men, and she was my inspiration.
I think a wedding is a very special moment in your life that you will always remember. That is the reason I went into bridal wear. I like to see people happy. And what is a better occasion than getting married? I can make their dreams come true. I make dreams, you know? [laughs]
Your latest collection has hand ruching, layered skirts, making the dresses very romantic and light. What was your inspiration for this collection?
It’s based on the Carnival in Venice, and that’s why if you see the names of the pieces, they are all Italian names from the 1800s and 1900s. This Carnival is very important in Italy. They wear masks, and there is a fascination, you know, to meet the right man. This was my inspiration for this collection.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date? What are you most proud of?
Well, I think I am very proud because this is a mother-and-daughter company, and the big accomplishment is to work with my daughter and have in the future a continuation of Ines Di Santo because she understands everything about Ines Di Santo and has a fantastic flair for fashion. That is my biggest accomplishment – being able to build a company at the international level, thanks to my daughter who works with me.
Have you ever designed a piece for a family member?
For my daughter, three wedding gowns.
I’m Italian! We baptise the children, then we make a Communion, then a Confirmation, then the Sweet 16, and then the wedding. For the family, I did a lot of wedding gowns.
She did have three weddings gowns, but she got married at 4 o’clock. If she had gotten married in the morning, she said she would’ve had five or 10!
What was it like designing for your daughter?
It was a beautiful experience! I know my daughter, I know her style, I know what she likes, of course. She chooses, I design, she says yes. It was the easiest wedding I ever did. But you know what, weddings are easy. Maybe because I love designing so much. It’s not a pressure, it’s a pleasure.
The fashion industry, like the rest of the world, has been affected by the ongoing economic crisis. What do you think are some of the challenges of designing clothes right now?
You have to adapt to the economy. In some cultures, the most important thing is the wedding, and they save for that special moment. There are people who accommodate to the budget and there are people who save for that special moment and don’t think about the budget.
Can you describe your aesthetic in three words or less?
Elegant, romantic, with a touch of sexy. We are very classy, very romantic.
Anything else you would like to add?
We are designers, we create. I have to thank all the brides who chose Ines Di Santo. Because of them, I am who I am today!