Michael Phelps and Nicole Johnson wed on Saturday in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. (That is, for the second time, as they’ve been secretly married since June.) For her big bridal moment, Johnson — who switched her Instagram handle to Mrs. Nicole Phelps within hours of the ceremony — chose a gown by Israeli designer Julie Vino.
And, as Vino tells PEOPLE exclusively, the bride was thrilled about her look.
“She did not want the traditional bridal gown,” Vino tells PEOPLE from her home base in Tel Aviv-Yafo. The form-fitting design featured a deep V-neck, cap-sleeve bodice made with French lace and hand-stitched embroidery and a silk chiffon skirt with a nearly five-foot-long train, a customized variation of the designer’s “Erin” gown.
“She wanted something that was a little more easygoing and flowing, and a slit up the side,” adds Vino. “She always wanted something with a slit. It was something that she had in her head from the beginning.”
The new Mrs. Phelps actually reached out to Vino to create the look. “Nicole was fond of me for a few years, apparently, and contacted me and asked me to make a dress,” says Vino, whose dresses range from $7,000 to $10,000 and are available in 30 bridal salons around the world.
The designer (pictured above with Johnson) says she knew who Michael Phelps was, too, of course. “I’m a huge fan,” she says. “And Boomer is extremely cute.”
Vino started working on the design “after a whole bunch of emails and Skype calls,” she says. “I got the basic idea of what she was looking for and sketched a couple of dresses for her. She decided what kind of style she liked and that’s how we landed on the final dress.” (See the exclusive sketch of the gown below.)
Given that the designer is in Israel, Johnson and Vino worked together to get the fit just right. Johnson sent the Vino team her basic measurements and then Vino went to work on the look. Johnson had one and only fitting in New York, while Vino was in town for Bridal Fashion Week in October.
“When we did our first fitting, the dress fit her almost perfectly,” says Vino, who added that Michael Phelps and their child Boomer stayed behind at the hotel during the fitting. “Nicole came with a couple of her friends and Facetimed with her mother. She didn’t want to take the dress off. She was crying and everyone was happy.”
However, it needed a little more work before the big day. “She had lost a some weight, I suppose like every bride does, so we did a few more alterations on her,” she says. “Then we sent the dress back to Israel to do the final alterations, and sent it back to her about a week and a half ago before the wedding.”
And what did Vino think when she saw the photos? “I was extremely happy for them,” she says. “It fit her perfectly. She looks amazing.”
This is just the start of Vino and Johnson’s relationship, too. “I had a great connection with Nicole,” says Vino. “She’s fun to work with, and we’re definitely going to be working with her in the future for other things. We already started working on something. It’s coming soon.”