Interview with Bridal Designer Ashley Castanos of Daughters of Simone

We caught up with bridal designer Ashley Castanos of Daughters of Simone right after she debuted her latest collection, Day Dream, at New York Bridal Fashion Week to talk all things #girlboss, wedding advice, and the details of her stunning European wedding that took place in Switzerland and Italy.

No detail was spared during this elaborate weekend of festivities celebrating her nuptials to her longtime love, Terrence Brown. From vintage-inspired gowns, bridal trends, to brand collaborations, we are so excited to share the inside scoop of the #LagodiBrowños wedding!

What inspired you to start your business?

Daughters of Simone began with the desire to offer unique gowns that we couldn’t find on the current market. We started selling vintage wedding dresses, mainly from the 1960’s and 1970’s eras. With a little sewing knowledge we would tweak the gowns here and there to give them new life and more modern appeal.

Our first made-to-order line of vintage inspired gowns hit the market in 2012. It was such an exciting time for bridal as many had never seen a two-piece midsection baring gown before, nor a modern take on the ultra hippie off-the-shoulder styles. We were designing pieces that appealed to our personal interest and we encouraged the idea of creating gowns for brides who wanted to feel comfortable and even more importantly, like themselves on their special day.

Where does the name “Daughters of Simone” come from?

The name was inspired by Simone de Beauvoir, the French writer and philosopher. We like to think some of her out of the box ideals are represented in our unique wedding gowns. She spoke up for women at a time when women were not expected to have a voice of their own.

We welcome strong and brave women, and we design for women who have the confidence to feel like themselves on their wedding day, while disregarding what may be considered the norm. We find this notion extremely romantic.

What are three words to describe the Daughters of Simone bride?

Romantic. Confident. Free Spirit.

Where to you go to find inspiration for your designs?

My wedding dress, the ‘Ash’, is a little more avant-garde than anything we’ve ever done. It has some renaissance flair with these large billowy sleeves and a lot of delicate feminine detail. While I was designing my own wedding dress I was also designing pieces for our new 2019 collection. You will find many elements taken from my gown that have been incorporated on other pieces throughout the collection.

I have quite the collection of white flowy blouses and dresses from vintage stores so a lot of the pieces are actually inspired by real vintage finds in mine or Brit’s closet. A lot of time while shopping at vintage stores we find beautiful pieces that we love and are inspired to recreate them by giving them new life and modernize them a bit.

What are the latest wedding trends in bridal fashion?

I’m definitely seeing more of these large poet sleeves that are on my wedding dress. I’m noticing more layered, tiered gowns, and a bit more ruffles this season. I’m also excited about all of the floral embroidery.

What was it like running your business and planning your own wedding at the same time?

I was so excited and I had so many ideas, but it definitely felt like taking on a second full-time job. We designed not only this new 2019 collection which included my wedding dress, but we also collaborated to do a bridesmaid line as well as a jewelry line. Almost every aspect of our wedding was custom, not to mention happening abroad, so I’m very grateful for my business partner and my team for taking over aspects of my role while I was wedding planning and designing.

Planning a wedding from abroad had its challenges, thankfully my husband was fully involved and a huge help. We would take meetings with our wedding planner and other European vendors in the mornings before work and sometimes late into the night to accomodate for the time differences.

Any advice for other business owners who are trying to juggle these two mammoth tasks?

To be honest, there were several times where I just kept saying, “How do people do this?” Because planning a wedding is a full time job.

I will say we did have a full service wedding planner and if you can swing it, I would put that as one of the most important things in your budget. If you have to shave costs in other areas to make it happen, this is vital for planning an international wedding. Our wedding planner spent countless hours researching and connecting vendors for us.

You have to treat your wedding just like any other business and schedule it out. We blocked hours out on our calendar and a lot of it was before work or after work. We also had to say no to a lot of social things on the weekends and spend the time planning. It can feel overwhelming at times, but try as best you can to enjoy the process. Make those late nights fun by brewing some whiskey teas while listening to upbeat music.

What’s next for Daughters of Simone?

We just launched our 2019 Bridal Collection called, Day Dream. We recently wrapped up New York Bridal week were we debuted the new pieces. We look forward to the orders making their way to stores this winter so our brides can try on the new pieces! Being that my dress, the ‘Ash’ gown is in this collection, It would be pretty awesome to see some other brides wearing my dress.

Both of our collaborations, the bridesmaid line with Leave her Wilder, as well as the jewelry collab with A.B.Ellie will be launching in the next couple months.

We are also opening up an office in our hometown of Fresno, California where we plan to have a by appointment only retail space. We look forward to meeting some of our brides from our home town and the general area!

What was the inspiration behind your wedding day and your gorgeous dress?

I always knew I wanted some sort of off the shoulder style.

My mom wore an off the shoulder style dress back in the 70s and it’s been an inspiration for the line as a whole. I’d gone back and forth on so many different styles and after a ton of research I finally sat down one day and put pen to paper and just started sketching this gown. The sleeves just kind of came out of me while I was drawing. I always knew I wanted an all silk gown. I love the flowiness of it and I chose a sheer silk so you could see through it because the sleeves are so large I didn’t want it to swallow me up.

I’ve had a Pinterest board for years with the details and inspiration of what I wanted, and I always knew I wanted some sort of floral embroidery. That was a lot of what you used to see back in the 60s and 70s.. Other elements of the gown evolved over time, such as the delicate smocked trim along the bodice and the slit in front of the skirt.

We did about three different renditions of the gown until we got it just right. I sourced many of the fabrics from vintage threads and had them remade.

As far as the wedding goes I think it’s kind of a similar sentiment. It definitely evolved over time. I never officially had a theme or a color, but my husband and I share a love for fashion, so we knew we wanted fashion to be a huge part of the day.

From the get go I’d been sending my friends and family links to the Met Ball coverage and instructed them to wear their finest duds and go all out with the glamour.

And then there was also the setting. We knew we were getting married in Italy and doing events in Switzerland, so we wanted the overall aesthetic to naturally go with the location that we were in. That being said, we knew we wanted a lot of non-traditional elements which we found somewhat challenging to create.

We planned to have lounge seating instead of seated tables with place cards. We wanted our guests to feel free to roam from one lounge area to the next.

People seem to feel a little bit more confident going around saying hi to people and sitting wherever they like as opposed to being stationary at a table the whole party, and that of course can create a unique casual atmosphere in a very formal setting.

We incorporated a very romantic feeling with the use of low hanging string lights, golden candelabras and hundreds of candles. Our wedding has been described as a Midsummer Night’s Dream, I’ve also heard people referring to it as an elegant Fleetwood Mac wedding, and some called it a very Wes Anderson inspired wedding.

What’s the story behind the gorgeous bridesmaids dresses and groomsmen suits?

I’ve have had this vision that my bridesmaids were going to wear slip style gowns with trains because I thought that was a bit more elegant than anything I’ve seen before. I also wanted them to be able to own a dress that could be worn again at other events. I reached out to Greer & Chelsea from Leave Her Wilder and we collaborated on a capsule collection of gowns.

In recent years there’s been a lot of decadence on the runway and out of inspiration I kept sketching these long dramatic cloaks. Eventually these cloaks turned into pearled netted capes with trains., I also wanted my bridesmaids to get decked out in jewelry and sport gold crowns. I reached out to Ashley from A.B. Ellie and she was totally up to the challenge of designing this collection together and we came up with a mix of crowns, necklaces, statement earrings and chokers.

As far as the groomsmen go, my husband had this idea of embroidered suits for a couple years. He was inspired by some Valentino suits from a few years back and created his own version. He wanted each guy to have their own unique look, so he sketched out a variety of designs pertaining to his own as well as each groomsmens personality and interests. He worked with an embroiderer from Canada, Jackie from El Patcha, who did beautiful work on the burgundy tuxedos.

What was your favorite moment of your wedding day?

There’s a couple favorite moments, but the best was definitely when Terrence and I read our love letters to each other during the ceremony.

It’s such a surreal moment where you are standing in front of 80 people but you feel like nobody else is around, it’s just you and him. We both wrote love letters to one another and recited them out loud. And I think after a year and a half of planning, all the craziness of the day and everything that’s going on, it really brought us back to center, to the main reason why we did all this in the first place.

The secondary highlight of the day was jumping in the pool. It was so hot that day. We got thrown this crazy heat wave and the reception took place around the pool area. This beautiful cold water was just staring at is all day and there had been all these jokes and rumors that eventually we were going to have a pool party. No one really thought that it was going to happen because we’re all wearing formal gowns and tuxedos. Once I found out that one of my good family friends had already jumped in the pool in her dress, heels and even her jewelry, I was like, “Oh hell yeah we’re going for it!”

It was quite magical. Once I was in the water all of my friends were diving in right and left. Every time I looked up someone new was jumping in and it turned into this roaring party with about 60 or so people in the pool dancing while the deejay kept playing.

What are the most important things a bride should consider when choosing their dress?

Make sure it’s a dress that you feel like yourself in. Don’t get caught up in the trends or what others may want you to wear.

Prior to making any bridal appointments, do your research. Most shops have the brands they carry listed on their website, or will tell you over a quick phone call. You might take it a bit further once you find a couple brands your interested in and inquire which styles that store carries. This way, when you get to your appointment you’ll already have a few styles in mind that your excited about to try on.

Find something that makes you light up! The first time I put on my dress, only a prototype mind you, I immediately fell in love and the fact that both the seamstress and I had teared up was assurance I had made the right choice.

What do you think are the best accessories to wear with a wedding dress?

I think personal accessories, if you have them. If you have any family heirloom that’s been handed down or something that was gifted to you that has special meaning.

I wore a necklace that my grandpa had given me, he said it was the first diamond he ever gave my grandma. Wearing the necklace felt like having a little piece of her with me.

I also had a, very beautiful large piece that sat on the back of my head, it was a headpiece made of woven golden vines with golden wildflowers and leaves. My dramatically long veil was attached to it. I think if there is ever a time to wear a statement piece, go for it.

What advice can you give future brides who are planning their weddings?

I think the most important advice is to focus on doing the planning with only one person if you can.

If you and your partner are both very invested in doing all the planning, just keep it to you two. Or if you’re planning with a family friend or family member do it with them because it’s really easy to get caught up in everybody else’s ideas. It’s such an exciting time, and you want to talk about it with everybody that you know, but all the opinions and ideas you may get in return can actually get overwhelming.

Terrence was very involved in every aspect of the wedding, and I also had my sister Brittany, who got married a couple years back. She was really good at giving advice, and she would say “this is your wedding and this is about you. This is what you want, so make sure you’re not doing this for everybody else and involving their opinions.” I had to keep that in the back of my mind, and it helped me make some important decisions.

Vendor Credits

Florals + Wedding design | @ChristinemCater
Photography | @ElisabettaLillyRed
Videography | @2become1video
Catering & Cake | @CitronPavot
Wedding Planning | @LauraDovaWeddings
Furniture Rentals | @Sofi_rentdesign
Furniture Rentals | @Narkisso_design
Tableware Rentals | @tablesetrentals
Decor Rentals | @rossodisera_events
Furniture rental | @rossodisera_events
DJ Music | @vincent_dancepolice
Wedding Dress | @DaughtersofSimone
Bride and Bridesmaids Jewelry | @A.B.Ellie @DaughtersofSimone
Bridesmaids Dresses | @Leaveherwilder @daughtrsofSimone
Bridesmaids Pearled Capes | @DaughtersofSimone
Groomsmen Embroidery | @elpachaembroidery
Bride Ring | @rebeccaovermannjewelry
Groom Ring | @fiatluxsf
Invitation Design | @carolyn.e.yocum
Invitation Calligraphy | @inkpushco
Invitation Printing Press | @LighthouseBridal
Hair & Make up | @sinemyavsaner_makeupartist
Hair & Make up | @julianataraca
Craft Cocktails | @barmanatworkofficial
Ceremony location | Giardino del Merlo
Location | Villa Camilla
Transportation | Discacciati Sarl