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In Pictures: Handmade wedding gowns at the Ines Di Santo workshop in Ontario

Mother-daughter team trying to preserve French tradition of couture

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Each of the wedding gowns made by Ines Di Santo Inc. is a work of art, says Veronica Di Santo, director of marketing for the company, which is based in Woodbridge, Ont. The mother-daughter firm makes luxury dresses that are sold in high-end stores in Canada and the United States.

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Ines Di Santo founded the company in 1984. Here she and Youssef Hadidi discuss a dress at the warehouse in Vaughan, Ont.

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The Di Santos roundly reject streamlining production. “We work in the French tradition of couture,” the younger Ms. Di Santo says. “The seamstress doing the hand work takes a certain pride in creating it. You can’t do the bottom and I do the top and then we put them together. If something isn’t right, you need to see it in its entirety to know.”

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Antonina Gambino hand-sews French lace onto a wedding dress.

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The pair are considering new computer technology for processes such as cutting fabrics. “That’s where we could go if we wanted to streamline our production process,” the younger Ms. Di Santo says. “We could add other efficiencies that technology offers.”

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The dresses are sold at a retail store in Toronto as well as at the new Kleinfeld bridal boutique in the Hudson’s Bay store on Queen Street in Toronto (where prices range from $5,000 to $10,000), in Alberta and in New York at Bergdorf Goodman.

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Despite ambitions to expand their business and increase sales, they won’t take the common path of outsourcing production overseas. The company will add an evening wear collection this fall but continue manufacturing here so they can retain complete control over their product, Ms. Di Santo says.

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Ines Di Santo measures and cuts a silk tulle skirt for a wedding dress.

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One of the mother-daughter team’s biggest challenges is finding workers with the refined skills they need. They would like to hire talented designers and pattern makers from France, Italy and the Middle East but are concerned about government changes regarding foreign workers.

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Pictured is the company’s boutique on Davenport Road in Toronto. Over all, the pair are trying to grow the company while preserving their methods of handmade dressmaking.

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