In 1977, Eva Duringer and a friend boarded a Citroën Deux Chevaux in Bregenz, Austria, for their first trip abroad. The destination was Florence but, for Eva, the scope of the trip wasn't visiting the Duomo or Palazzo della Signoria. Rather, she was off to be with Roberto Cavalli.
The pair had met that year during a Miss Universe contest in the Dominican Republic, where the statuesque Nordic beauty placed second. Cavalli, 20 years her senior, was a judge and was immediately smitten by her. Three years later, they were married.
Once settled into the Tuscan lifestyle, the new Mrs. Cavalli turned to fashion by cultivating her passion for crocheting and knitting — aided by some of the older ladies in the neighborhood — until she quietly started working at the fashion house.
Her learning curve started by handling sales in Germany, which was a key market for the brand, until she became increasingly intrigued by and involved in the design process.
"I'm still constantly learning, evolving and observing because I want to understand what women want," she conceded.
While she and Roberto strut down the runway hand in hand for their accolades, unlike her husband, Eva shuns the limelight. Yet she is more influential than many people realize, serving as the driving force behind the brand's image — selecting models, doing the ad campaigns, styling and staging the catwalk.
And as often happens with couples who work together 24/7, their relationship has waxed and waned, also because, as Roberto puts it, "you bring your work-related problems and troubles into the bedroom."
Yet the two are apparently still very close and dependent upon each other.
In rare off-hours, Eva devotes time to friends and family and outdoor life, whether it's sailing and swimming, gardening or just going for a long walk.
Here, she shares some insight with WWD.
WWD: What struck you most about Roberto when you first met?
Eva Cavalli: His eyes, his tan, his volcanic temperament. I could feel his gaze when I walked down the runway and it made me feel secure.
WWD: What would you say are your design strengths?
E.C.: I'm a bit the heart of the collection. Roberto often has some fantastic ideas but he's too busy to carry them forward, so I take care of developing them. I'm intuitive, I like sensuality but not vulgarity, and I design for a free and audacious woman.
WWD: Could you list Roberto's strengths and weaknesses?
E.C.: He's always positive and very resourceful but he's also slower now than he used to be and tends to put things off. Luckily, though, most of the time, I can get on with it solo.
WWD: Who are your muses and what's the starting point of a new collection?
E.C.: I don't have muses or idols. I just appreciate strong, determined women like Sharon Stone because I'm convinced that to reach certain levels, you need that extra oomph. As far as a new collection goes, there's no formula. Roberto and I talk, but then the starting point can be a journey, a party we attended, nature, a book, a print.
WWD: What was your favorite collection?
E.C.: The fall-winter 2004-05 collection inspired by the Marchesa Luisa Casati, the eccentric and controversial lover of Gabriele d'Annunzio, [for its sumptuous mix of leathers, animal prints, gold embroideries and silks.] I just remember the girls looking great. There was a great mix of different elements.
WWD: What do you not like about the fashion business?
E.C.: The constant rush against time. Everything is so fast nowadays that sometimes when designing a new collection, you have the best ideas at the end, and you don't have time to put them in practice, to refine them.
WWD: Any regrets?
E.C.: I work 10- to 15-hour days, so I would like to have more free time to dedicate to friends and family. Roberto and I both always clocked long days and ended up talking about work at home as well, a habit our children didn't appreciate. Also, the Internet fascinates me, though I'm not that skilled and I really don't have time to learn.