All Mark Zunino desires for his brides is their utmost happiness. Days after confronting critics of Denise Richards’s wedding dress, the celebrated bridal designer tells The Knot that the only approval he seeks is that of the Drop Dead Gorgeous actress.
The Los Angeles-based designer shared on Instagram on Saturday, September 8, that he only had about 24 hours to customize a gown for Richards ahead of her surprise wedding to Aaron Phypers. Zunino and Richards met on Friday ahead of the star’s Malibu wedding, which was slated for the following afternoon.
“Denise brought a photo of the romper with an organza overskirt from my most recent runway show,” he recalls. Typically, the floral-on-tulle fabric requires a month’s lead time to ship from Europe, followed by another few weeks of labor required of three to four seamstresses. Lucky for Richards, his team already had an archived runway sample that just happened to be in perfect condition.
While the biggest initial concern was the size of the made-for-runway piece, Richards’ figure was a near-perfect fit. “I had two seamstresses work that night to complete the alterations,” he says. “And by Saturday morning, it was ready for Denise’s ceremony.”
View this post on Instagram
The end result was a fitted, white strapless romper embellished with floral appliqués; the piece complete with a detachable overskirt. Critics on social media, however, were split about the piece, some confusing the romper with a mini dress. Others fawned over the look and defended Zunino for his creation. Ultimately, the designer felt compelled to respond to the initial backlash in a now-deleted Instagram post about the merits of designing for Richards. (“I don’t think we’ve ever had a wedding dress create more split opinions than the dress we just did for Denise Richards,” Zunino expressed on Monday. “Here’s our thought: we work for the bride/client.)
“The look is very avant-garde, so it takes a progressive girl to understand it,” he continues. “Denise is that girl. I think the length was an issue for some observers because they thought it was a miniskirt and not appropriate. But with it being a romper, the short length isn’t a problem. It’s basically like wearing shorts.”
Another star to choose shorts on her wedding day was Olivia Palermo, whose Carolina Herrera look—featuring a cashmere sweater tucked into shorts with a tulle skirt overlay—remains a popular post on Pinterest within the style set. Zunino explains why shorts as a bridal aesthetic was the perfect fit for Richards.
“Denise has been married before and her body is insanely-physically fit,” he muses. “Plus, she had the ceremony on the beach. Finally, considering Denise’s calm and happy nature, the look was perfect for her.”
“I’ve always believed the bride—and only the bride—needs to ultimately be happy,” he says. “I’ve never understood people who can’t find the beauty in her dress choice or those who can’t be encouraging and supportive in her happiness. My focus will always be on the bride’s ultimate happiness.”
Zunino decided to scrub his Instagram page clean of his follow-up thoughts because he didn’t anticipate the overwhelming response. “I didn’t want controversy to overshadow the beauty and happiness of the wedding,” he concludes. “My point was, the bride’s happiness is the ultimate goal, and Denise was very happy!”
Overall, Zunino brides can identify with several personal qualities: “They’re classic with a modern twist,” he concludes. “My bride is usually an independent thinker, who’s confident and secure in her choices. She’s a leader, not a follower, and she creates her own style.”
Secure your ideal wedding vision by starting with The Knot’s Style Quiz, here.