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MOTHER AND DAUGHTER DUO - making dreams come true together!


Two beautifully talented women, as different as night and day; bound by their love, as mother and daughter, have become an unparalleled combination of genius in the wedding industry. Ines and Veronica working side-by-side have created their own empire of some of the most beautiful couture wedding gowns in the world today.

This mother and daughter duo have worked together as a team for as long as Veronica can remember. As a young child growing up, Veronica would walk to her mother’s shop after school; there she would help-out while Ines worked creating ready-to-wear fashions for her ever-busy clientele in the Bathurst and Sheppard area of Toronto

 “I can still see her precious little hands draped over my shoulders as I worked on the sewing machine late into the night while she waited for me to go home,” Ines recalls.

It has been a long journey for Ines and Veronica Di Santo but they always had each other and that is what has made this such a wonderful journey!

Born in Italy and raised in Argentina, Ines Di Santo had fashion in her blood from a very young age; she came by it naturally. Her mother was an embroiderer and would make all the family clothing, while her father created the artwork for the covers of fashion magazines. Even at a young age, little Ines would create new clothes for her two dolls every week; she would have them baptized after mass by the priest and as every good Catholic mother knows they would need a beautiful outfit to wear for that occasion.

Ines’ talent continued to develop into her teens as she began creating “coming out dresses” for her friends who were turning sixteen. Ines has many funny stories about that time in her life. One of my favourite stories, Ines tells, is at thirteen years old; she babysat for her parents’ friends who had twin girls. While watching the twins, Ines cut their hair and clothes to create new designs. Ines laughs, as she remembers, “It was a disaster! You can imagine the surprise on everyone’s face when they came home! My mother had a fit!”

Ines honed her skills at a private girl’s school that she attended in Buenos Aires where she learned embroidery and sewing.  She continued her studies in Paris under designers Antonio Cavasso and Donato Lagarique, who had worked for Christian Dior

In 1974, Ines would be the first in her immediate family to leave Argentina and immigrate to Canada. Initially she worked at Ritche, an upscale Toronto boutique, in the cutting and designing room.

In 1984, Ines was on her own with her daughter, just back from a trip to Argentina with no money to her name; she decided it was time to start her own business by creating a fashion show of couture evening gowns that she would showcase at Casa Loma. “Usually, most people, first create a business and then they have a show but I thought I will have the show and then I will make a business! People were so good to me” says Ines. “Susan Henkin, at my bank, listened to my idea’s and gave me a loan with no collateral. Annie from Novice Textiles, told me to use whatever materials I want from her company to create the gowns for the show. I was so worried I may not be able to pay them back. Annie said, “If you sell, then you pay me back!” They all took a chance and believed in me!”

The show at Casa Loma was a great success.  “I had a real tiger and a flamingo dancer. It had to be a show that was true to who I am and where I am from. The show had a European flair. I am a very expressive person" explains Ines. “I sold everything I made at the show and paid everyone back. I had business for a year from the orders I had from the show."

Ines’ business grew as did her clientele. Being mature at a young age out of necessity, Veronica often would keep the customers entertained while they were waiting for Ines. “It must have seemed quite funny to clients,” recalls Veronica, “to have a nine year old asking, what do you do for a living?”

In 1997, Ines, with some encouragement from a friend, started wholesaling her couture bridal collection in the United States. Today, her gowns are sold in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, United States as well as in Canada at their EXCLUSIVE INES DI SANTO boutique on Davenport and Avenue Road (just north of Hazelton Lanes) and at VERONICA DI SANTO ATELIER in Woodbridge.

The warehouse, located in Woodbridge, is where everything is produced from start to finish in the true couture fashion. “We use the best fabrics; create the patterns right on the mannequin and do all our custom work by hand. We use Swarovski crystals and the finest pearls for our gowns. The same person who starts the dress finishes the dress completely. All our staff is trained in European couture,” says Veronica. “We use only the finest silks from Italy and the best lace from France just as they do in Paris at the Haute couture houses. You can see the difference when you see the dress!"

As I walk through the warehouse I am amazed at all the beautiful gowns.

I ask Veronica have you always wanted to be a fashion designer?
Veronica smiles and says, "I went to York University and graduated with an honours degree in humanities. When I finished, I studied film-directing and producing in New York. During this time, a certain series of events occurred that forced me to say I cannot walk away from the fashion business. Back home, it was as if the horse was running and there was no one here to run it. I have always been the one to look after everything. I have always been like the big sister and my mother, the younger sister. The light bulb kind of goes off and you realize you have a role reversal.” 

"As for designing, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree - I have seen my mom creating all of my life - it just comes natural. It is kind of a part of my DNA."  

I ask Ines and Veronica, what makes you different as designers?
“I envision what the younger generation is in tune with in fashion. I design more of the trends. What people want my age," says Veronica. "I have four new bridal gowns that I am working on right now for this collection.”

Ines says, “I can design for any bride. I don’t think of the trends. I think of how I feel and how I see you.  Everything is about feeling for me and I express my feelings in my designs. I feel the beauty of nature. I love art and nature.  Nature inspires me ! I create flowers for a dress from leaves that I see in nature; I do them all by hand in organza. I love my work.!”

Veronica says, “I think every artist feels an emoitional need to create and if they don’t I think they just don’t feel like their breathing."

"I like movement in a dress. I create it by draping the fabric. I can take fifteen pounds off a person. My draping shows off the best of every figure type. I can create for plus size bodies or smaller bodies,” says Ines.
“Yes”, Veronica says, “That is my mother's signature, her draping. No one does it like her. Draping takes the persons' best features and highlights them and takes the not so nice features and hides them.”

“I love colour too,” says Ines. I have had colour in my designs for the last eight years but this year's collection, the colours will be softer, platinum, pale blues, powder pinks. Everything is very soft...this year you will see softer lines in the dress and curved shapes.”

What type of bride would wear your dresses I ask?
“A bride that is sophisticated, elegant, cultured and refined. A bride that is discerning and knows good quality,” says Veronica

What about shoes and accessories I ask?
“The shoes should be the most beautiful,” says Ines. “Shoes with colour and rhinestones are great. They have to be beautiful but also comfortable.”

“The jewellery should suit your personality” says Veronica. Something sentimental is nice but I caution against the bride who feels they have to have everything: tiara, gloves, veil, jewellery - It just looks over-done! Stay true to who you are when making jewellery choices.”

How long in advance should a bride order a gown?
“I prefer a year as the dress sets the whole tone for the event. If the dress you choose is organic and flowery, you may want a garden wedding. If the dress is Art Deco, you want to match it to the venue. It is the most important day of your life, you should take the time to plan for it,” says Veronica.

On that note, I ask, what has been the highlight of both of your careers to date?
Both Veronica and Ines say the wedding gowns they created for Veronica’s wedding last year.

"It was so much fun working with my mom on this. I knew exactly what I wanted. Ines designed nine dresses for me and we went with three of them," says Veronica.

“It was how I saw Veronica,” says Ines. For the ceremony, we have the romantic gown called Vera. For the reception, we had a more body fitting dress in pink. It was like a red-carpet dress that was very sexy  (called Nica). The third dress, was the fun dress - it was a mini dress that Veronica changed into later on in the evening at the reception.

Veronica says, “I loved my dresses, especially my pink one. The red-carpet dress my mom made. I came in on a Saturday morning and my mom had it waiting for me. It was so beautiful it looked like a seashell that had washed up on the seashore. I loved that dress!”

I look over at Ines at that moment and I can see the love in her eyes as she says, “I have thanked God ten million times for my beautiful daughter.” Veronica adoringly looks at her mom and smiles – no words have to be spoken to know how much she cares!

[Check the Real I Dos section to see Veronica's wedding]

Ines Di Santo FALL WINTER 2008-2009 Collection:

Colleen Oreskovic
Stylist/Fashion Contributor
[email protected]