Rita Vinieris is the founder and creative director of Rivini – a luxury wedding dress company based in Toronto.
1. What was your first export sale?
My most memorable export sale was the day that Bridals By Lori of Atlanta, Georgia, picked up our collection. I still remember our booth where I had a display of fishbowls with goldfish on an antique ladder draped in organza. Lori’s daughter came by and loved both the dresses and the display. She returned later with Lori. We started a wonderful relationship that day that has spanned over 14 years.
2. How did that export opportunity arise?
It came about through a trade show.
3. When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
There was a lot of trial and error, like anything you do for the first time. Several accounts were opened that were not necessarily correct for the brand. There is no formula to follow because it is fashion and the clothes need to fit and hang well in a store alongside other brands. Also, accounts need to know that you can deliver goods as they are taking orders to be delivered in six months. Accounts need to know you will survive and still be up and running.
4. What challenges have you had to overcome in the U.S., your largest market?
There are challenges every season as markets change, trends change, new stores open and some stores close. Strategically managing all of this with a focus on growth is key. We have grown at a steady pace, focusing on each territory and building relationships and partnerships.
5. As you start expanding into Europe what have you learned from earlier forays in international markets?
Local representation is critical. You must also have a thorough understanding of the market.
6. How has the trading world changed since you started in business?
When we first started there was a true garment industry in Toronto. Since then the Toronto garment manufacturing has moved offshore, making it challenging to find trade talent to work on my designs. That’s why I moved some of the manufacturing to New York City. I have attempted to train seamstress, however it takes years of experience for someone to be able to work on the calibre of garments that I produce, unfortunately making training a nonviable option.
7. What is the number one thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
Research your market to determine where your product will fit as it relates to customer needs. And ensure you have adequate financing to see you through the first two years of business.