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A Canuck designer takes Manhattan (but not her homeland)

On the day before New York Fashion Week opened officially, Rita Vinieris had given herself a head start.

The Toronto designer, internationally known for the exquisite wedding gowns she creates for her own luxury Rivini label, had rented out the top floor of the Milk Studios in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. She had invited a who's who of the fashion industry, none of them yet up to their false eyelashes in invitations, to see her latest project: a sparkling evening-wear collection pegged to spring 2015.

At the 10 a.m. presentation were editors from Elle, Cosmopolitan, W, Harper's Bazaar and WWD, the latter's rep rushing off to write a review of Vinieris's femme-fatale-inspired lineup of cocktail and evening dresses, describing it as "special in its own way, with the best done in net-like lace, laminated lace, caviar beading and flirty paillettes on soft dresses that moved with the body."

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The early bird had caught the silk worm.

"I know how Canada works," says Vinieris, who, since launching her new line last February, has been living part-time in New York despite a husband and young daughter at home in her native Toronto. "I had to start here to go back to my homeland."

She's off to a good one. Her ready-to-wear collection, ranging from a $2,800 black silk cocktail dress with a flared, laminated-lace hem to an $8,000 full-length hand-beaded silk gown dripping in paillettes and crystals, is already being carried by Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Saks in Washington, Gus Mayer in Nashville, Julian Gold in San Antonio, Nina Raynor in Florida and select Neiman Marcus stores across the U.S.

In Canada? Other than her wedding dresses being introduced recently to Kleinfeld, the U.S. bridal behemoth that took over the top floor of Hudson's Bay's flagship store in Toronto in May, good luck tracking down any of her pieces.

"I am carried in Bergdorf's," Vinieris says sotto voce as she hangs up her dresses post-show, but she can't get a certain national Canadian luxury-fashion chain "to make an appointment," she adds.

Until that call comes in, the designer, armed with an economics degree from the University of Toronto and numerous bridal-industry awards, is determined to keep on taking Manhattan by storm.

When the press left for the day, she set to work having each of the 14 pieces in the new collection photographed against a white backdrop, the Hudson River shimmering in the distance, for a look book to be sent out to more buyers and members of the media.

The hope, Vinieris says, is to draw attention to her growing body of work outside bridal design. "I want to express more and give more," she explains, slumping, after a 12-hour day, into a chair.

"I wanted to give a clearer identity to who Rita Vinieris is, which is difficult to do when you are working with just white and ivory. I needed to have more variety."

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