By  on September 23, 2010

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?

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