Rita Vinieris made her name as a high-end bridal designer, creating couture-like variations on “The Dress” for fashion-savvy brides. Her bridal wear label, Rivini, is found at upscale boutiques in the U.S., mainly, but style-conscious Canadian brides can find her at Kleinfeld’s at The Bay, Dina Lonzi, and White Toronto.
Vinieris, who splits her time between New York and her home base of Toronto, has recently extended her brand, launching an eveningwear collection in 2013. Her biggest coup: making the cut at Bergdorf Goodman. “We’re in Bergdorf’s now hanging next to Oscar de la Renta, J.Mendel, Monique Lhuillier, Vera Wang,” she says.
But cracking the Canadian market has proven a little more challenging, especially getting a certain luxury department store to take notice. Vinieris talks to FLARE about making the leap to eveningwear after nearly two decades in bridal, what she’s bringing to occasion dressing, and why it’s harder to crack the Canadian market than make it in NYC.
Flannery Dean: What’s different about working in bridal?
Rita Vinieris: Well, the dresses are huge! I love design, I really do. I love creating and I’m creating dresses that are made of luxurious fabrics with semi-couture finishes to them. I think just the beauty of what we create here is what keeps me going.
FD: What trends have you seen come and go?
RV: When I first started bridal it was all about the big, crazy puffy sleeves. I was like ‘are you kidding me? Who the heck wears this? They’re the size of a woman’s head, if not larger.’
It was great when that was gone and then strapless starting coming in and tank and sleeveless. It was great to not have to wear a sleeve after Labour Day. It was great that all of that changed and that bridal became closer to fashion, and I have to say that Vera Wang is one of the first to bring bridal closer to fashion.
FD: Are there any taboos still lingering in bridal?
RV: Society as a whole is pretty open these days and bridal is no different than those social trends that happen. I mean, perhaps, certain communities might have their own taboos. But as a whole, anything goes.
FD: What’s your most popular design? What do people want in bridal now?
RV: I think what’s popular with us is that my styling is about soft, romantic architecture. That’s what people look at our brand for.
FD: You launched an eveningwear line in 2013…why?
RV: It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It was just trying to figure out the details of where, how it all comes together.
FD: What did you want to bring to eveningwear?
RV:I wanted to bring a little bit more simplicity to it. There are a lot of amazing gowns out there that are a little more complex and are grander but I wanted to bring some simplicity because my sensibilities are understated.
FD: It sounds like you’re attracted to special occasion dressing. Could you get excited about designing a sportswear jacket?
RV: Oh, yeah. I could get excited about designing anything. I love design. I think it’s just from being in bridal it was a little bit more of a natural progression to go into eveningwear and dresses. There are so many collections out there—I’m going to call them your regular daywear, ready-to-wear collections—it takes insanely deep, deep pockets to really break into that category. It’s a totally different venture.
FD: How hard was it to get your eveningwear into Bergdorf’s?
RV: It is a challenge. But I think that the biggest challenge with all stores is giving them something that they don’t already have. The fact that I went in there with something that was different, and it wasn’t another larger dress or fussy dress and it didn’t look like something that was already on the floor; that was helpful.
FD: That’s the challenge in the U.S. What’s the challenge here?
RV: I think as Canadians we’re always sort of always in awe of the big brands that are already out there, so I think if you’re not already a large brand there’s not enough awe factor for Canadian retailers to be attracted to you. Also, we are a smaller market, which means our budgets are smaller, which means you can only buy so much…
FD: Americans seem more interested in discovering talent and Canadians seem more interested in supporting existing talent.
RV: Yes, and Americans are more adventurous. They take risks. Also, in fashion there is a huge infrastructure in the U.S. and New York. Over the last two decades, we’ve lost that here.