Hello my Dear PP followers and subscribers! I am so excited for this month's Spotlight Scene because I get to introduce one of my very good and talented friends, Kristine Eikenbary Vitali, who is a fashion designer and artist extraordinaire. I am also glad that she is back in the country and back in New York after years of living in Italy with her husband, Tommy.
So before we start with the interview process, I wanted to share with you all how Kristine and I met. It was in New York City back in 2012, we met through common friends at a party and immediately gravitated toward each other's energy and creativity. Being an artist myself, I always find it easy to get along with fellow artists that are always open to the possibility of seeing and creating things in a different and unconventional way. Ever since, we became very close and even generously lent me some of her designs and creations to wear during my live singing performances in New York. Kristine even gifted me a very generous farewell gift (at that time in 2012, I was moving from New York City to Miami), which is a Grecian- inspired evening dress that I eventually wore for my birthday that year (pictured below). Although back in the days, my phone and picture quality was not great, I am sure you can see how intricate and pretty the dress is; which I still kept and in my closet up to this day.
I was living in Miami, when Kristine eventually met her future husband, Tommy. We have always kept in touch and told me that she will be moving to Italy for some time. Years went on and one day while chatting via social media, Kristine was so excited to share that she will be back in New York after years of living in Florence, Italy. I was excited when she shared that news and fast-forward to 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. Kristine and Tommy finally settled in their new home outside of New York City. So now, let us get to know her roots, her Italian adventures and her drop-dead-gorgeous designs.
The Parisian Panda: My dearest Kristine, thank you so much for letting me interview and feature you. I am so excited about so many things and I have so many questions to ask you! So let's start off with your background; share a little bit about yourself- childhood and when you came to NYC.
Kristine: I grew up in the Seattle area but moved to NYC when I was 22. I started out as an in-house showroom model on 7th Ave in Manhattan. On my breaks, I would hang out with the pattern makers and sewers in the sample room and I gained my design training from them.
PP: Oh wow! That must have been an interesting experience all in all, especially learning from the pros. Have you always loved to draw, paint and sketch? Did you ever want to pursue fashion design as a career growing up?
K: I was always an artist illustrating and painting the female form. At the age of 10, I knew I wanted to be a dress designer. It was a natural progression from painting the female form to dressing it. I have also studied classical portrait painting in NYC from the master Basil Baylin. For me life is about beauty and art. Designing dresses is just another way to artistically express myself.
Photo Shoot in Florence, Italy of Kristine's designs:
Shown below are just some of Kristine's designs and sketches:
"My vision is to capture the essence and elegance of each woman within my designs-- by giving each collection a sense of international flare combined with current market trends..."
PP: These sketches are just so divine, Do you have a specific design aesthetic that you follow or does it change all the time?
K: With more than 15 plus years designing on New York's 7th ave, I have to say that I love combining the glamour of NYC with the sophistication of my former home in Florence, Italy within my creations.
PP: I can definitely say that I love your designs because it is truly an embodiment and a celebration of the female silhouette! Now, tell us about Florence and Venice, Italy. Why and how did you move there, how was the experience (difference bet USA and Europe) Which do you prefer more?
K: I was actually living in Florence Italy for 7 years, (I just escaped to Venice quite often). My husband is Florentine, so I moved there to be with him. Florence is the renaissance city of art and culture. My father-in-law was a well known painter in Florence and my husband is a painter and a musician so I married into a very artistic family. I gained a greater appreciation for the classical arts while living in Florence. It was like a living museum so I was blessed to be living around so much beauty. I loved living in Italy for its appreciation of culture and the arts and it's a more relaxed lifestyle. After 20 years in Manhattan, I learned to slow down and appreciate life more once I moved to Italy. Our home was a converted convent from the 14th century that had amazing views of the Tuscan hills dotted with Medici Villas. We were able to travel extensively around Europe. I really miss being able to have so many cultural experiences all within a few hours drive. I also love the diversity and energy of NYC, but I do miss the beauty of Italy.
PP: I totally hear you being French myself, I will always love New York but Paris, France will always be home and where my heart will belong. But with that being said, Welcome Back to New York! How are you coping with the living adjustments of being back in town?
K: I was told by other expats that I would experience a reverse culture shock when I move back to The States, and yes; it's a very real thing. You feel like you are stuck between 2 worlds. I have one foot in Italy and 1 foot in NYC. We made an international move during a pandemic which isn't for the faintest of hearts. But we are happy to be back. We settled in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY right on the Hudson River. I'm a city girl and my husband prefers the country so Hastings was a good compromise. I have a view of the Manhattan skyline and Hudson River from my home so I still feel connected to the city. Right now, I'm currently freelancing for Bridal & Evening Wear companies in NYC. I also have a custom hand painted Italian leather bag collection called Boheme Antik.
PP: I can totally relate to that scenario when I moved back to New York from Paris late 2011. It even took me 6 months to adjust with my sleeping habits and the 6-hour time difference so trust me, I felt that pain! However, I am really really glad that you are back in town. Last but not the least, being a fashionista that you are, can you share a few of your fashion tips to our beloved followers?
K: I have always had a passion for and designed dresses. My personal style I would say is "boho meets glam rock". I'm very influenced by my world travels and that's where my boho style of dressing comes from. I love interesting and exotic jewelry and that's definitely reflected within my beading designs on my gown designs!
PP: Thank you so much once again for gracing and sharing with us your experiences in Italy and in your career. Definitely a very inspiring story to anyone out there who are thinking of doing fashion design or to be involved in the fashion industry in the future!
K: Of course honey, the pleasure is all mine. See you soon!
**To see more of Kristine's works and designs, make sure to check and click these hyperlink below and until next time my dear followers.