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Rachel Mara with model Genida Prifiti, preparing for Toronto Fashion Week.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

When it comes to the arts scene in Canada, Toronto tends to be a staunchly self-centred city, often quick to discredit work that surfaces from other parts of the country. But huge things have been happening in Winnipeg in the last twenty years - Guy Maddin, Noam Gonick, Marcel Dzama. Were you ever part of the Winnipeg scene?

Not really, I've been gone for almost two decades now. And I was quite young when I left. But I did do my fine arts degree at the University of Manitoba. I'm super proud to be from Winnipeg. And I'm constantly amazed at how many people are coming out of the city with such great work.

I want to harp on this idea of "coming out," as you say… It can't be easy to live in Winnipeg and push your career as an artist forward. You left the city - you even left the country. Was leaving a choice, or a necessity?

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I considered coming to Toronto at first, but for some reason I got it in my head that I needed to head south to spread my creative wings. California had some pull for me and that's where I ended up… I did a design degree there.

So, your design career actually began in the U.S.?

No. Once I finished school, I left design and went into advertising. Around that time, my mom took off to Morocco and started to design a line of clothing from there. She invited me down to Africa to consult and assist on the collection and it was incredibly exciting and inspiring and that's how I came into the fashion thing.

Okay, so I guess we can't say that you're actually an American designer then, but are you a Canadian one?

Absolutely. For one thing, all my clothes are made in Canada… I find Canada very open to new ideas and very independent minded as far as consumers go. As an independent designer, it's a great place to work. Being a designer often out of the U.S, I find being from another country really helps me because it makes me seem exotic. And, lately, Canadians are being taken more and more seriously by Americans…

Your new collection, Stolen, draws its inspiration from classic Hollywood heroines. Did you go with this sense of drama to cater to the LG audience?

No, the collection was conceived long before I received my invite to Fashion Week. Stolen is dramatic but the line isn't an attempt to pander the crowd it comes from my fascination with heist pictures, movies like Bonnie and Clyde, To Catch A Thief, and The Getaway. I love how, no matter how far the women in these movies go, their clothes keep them dignified. Bonnie/Faye Dunaway never really looked bad, even with all the bullet holes.

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Speaking of dignity, how do you keep yours when you know you're designing into a rather sick industry, full of body issues, eating disorders, etc?

Every woman has the ability to feel beautiful by what she wears and I personally try to design with a lot of body types in mind. I've seen women come to me thinking they can't wear a particular look and transform when they put my clothes on and realize they can. People try to put limitations on themselves and I try to help them forget their limits…

What do you hope to achieve from your launch at Fashion Week?

It's pretty simple: I hope to see more lovely ladies wearing my garments.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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