About working in fashion and being a mother

I interviewed Pieternel Walter (1985) about living and working in New York and about being a mom. Pieternel, born and raised in the Netherlands, has been living in NYC since 2009. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Fashion & Management in Amsterdam she did internships at Suit Supply in China and Etro in New York City. She worked for Brunello Cucinelli in NYC and has now become a true New Yorker. Next to being a full time mother to her daughter Joei, and pregnant with her second child. She lives in the East Village with her fiancée Nishanta de Gruiter and enjoys her New York life and being a New York mom.

Living in NYC:
I’ve been living in NYC for 6 years now and it really feels like home now. NYC is a city where lots of people come and go. When I moved here I met some great people but they had all moved away within six months. It saddened me and left me feeling a bit lonely at times. I then decided to invest in relationships with people who have been living here for longer and plan to stay permanently. That way I was able to build more solid connections.

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People in NYC:
What I love about NYC is that you meet people from many different nationalities. Once you get to know New Yorkers they are really warm and friendly, and I’ve got a couple of great friends now. You can be completely yourself in NYC, something I really appreciate. Here, you’d be able to walk out in a purple outfit and no one would look twice – more likely, someone will approach you and say: “You look so cool.” New Yorkers are quick to give complements. I like their enthusiasm, it makes me happy. It may not seem genuine, but I like it when someone randomly compliments me while I’m standing in line at the checkout.

My perfect Saturday in NYC:
I wake up relaxed and, with Joei in the stroller, take a walk to see Nishanta. His office is on Broome Street in SoHO and he usually does a little extra work on Saturday. Then the three of us enjoy brunch at Il Posto Accanto – you get a basket filled with nice bread rolls and croissants and they truly have the best carbonara. I love it, it really gives me a weekend vibe. After brunch we walk around town, shop for groceries and then cook together at home and sit on the sofa to watch a movie while enjoying a glass of wine. Or the babysitter will come to watch Joei and we will have dinner at Fatty Crab.

Advantages of living in NYC: You can order anything here, at any time of day. The good service you get in restaurants is a big plus. Not just in restaurants, but everywhere really. And I really enjoy a mani and pedi and getting my eyebrows done. It’s very common in NYC to have them done, just like a blow-dry. New Yorkers work hard, but they also know how to enjoy life and make it ‘easier’.

Things I miss: I miss my family and friends in The Netherlands, especially now Joei is here and the next one is on the way. I’d love to have my mother and sister closer. Family is family and it would be easier organizing a babysitter as well. I can’t just go away for a weekend and trust Joei with a babysitter, at least, I don’t want to. With family it’s different – they’d love to babysit. And I miss my bike! In Amsterdam it’s so easy to cycle everywhere and everything’s close by. You can cycle in NYC, but it can be really dangerous. Motorists here aren’t used to cyclists the way they are in Amsterdam.

After obtaining her Fashion Management degree in Amsterdam and having lived in China for half a year and having done an internship at Etro in NYC, Pieternel then became responsible for the visual merchandising for Brunello Cucinelli in the United States.

My job at Cucinelli: I created the style of the interior from the shop windows down to how the clothing was displayed in the stores. I did that for Cucinelli’s own stores and department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue and the specialty stores. I also assisted the sales team during market. During market all department and specialty stores come into NYC’s Cucinelli showroom to purchase the latest collections. I did the styling for models and created the looks for the catalogues. And I also made sure that the collections were acquired ‘the Cucinelli way’, so next to basics we’d also get more trendy items – making sure there was always a good mix between the two. No day was the same, it was an incredibly diverse job, I loved it.

You had to travel a lot for your job at Cucinelli. What was that like?
Super! It’s quite unique to be able to explore America during your job. Even though I didn’t have time to enjoy the beach while I was in Miami for example. It was hard work, many hours traveling and little sleep. In 5 days I’d fly from NYC to Orlando and on to San Francisco, LA, and then back to NYC. So I went from airport, to hotel, to work and back to the airport. It was a lot less glamorous than it seems, but I still enjoyed it. I’m not a 9 to 5 kind of person. You get to see so many places and meet so many different people. We stayed in beautiful hotels and had really great dinners. Cucinelli takes good care of their employees.

And then you got pregnant with Joei! What was your first reaction when you found out?
Panic! Haha. I only discovered after I was already 10 weeks pregnant. It was on our minds already, in the sense that we had discussed it, but we hadn’t planned it – so it was quite a surprise. When I found out I sort of panicked and it didn’t really sink in. But once we had visited the physician and saw the ultrasound, I immediately fell in love. You see this tiny little bean and that’s your child. It’s really very special. I got a sort of lioness strength over me and suddenly I was able to see things in perspective. The baby became the most important thing in my life.

How would you describe your first pregnancy? I only found out after 10 weeks, I found out on a Wednesday and the Monday after I was scheduled for a pretty heavy trip for work. I had to throw-up a lot, even in bins. Luckily the nausea only lasted for a little while and once it was gone, it was heavenly and I felt incredibly good. As if I had had a shot of happiness-hormones, I felt happy all the time. Of course I had my share of strange hormonal, emotional moments, but I wasn’t tired and didn’t suffer of any of the usual pregnancy complaints. Basically it felt like being in love all the time.

And now you’re pregnant with your second child! How do you feel?
I’m in my twelfth week, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Mainly because we haven’t had an ultrasound yet. I feel okay, just a little nauseous now and then.

What are the things you think are important during your pregnancy?
I really believe in exercise during your pregnancy. It makes you feel better and I think you’ll lose weight faster once you’ve had your baby. I go to the gym 2 times a week and train with a personal trainer. Once I feel less nauseous I’ll go 3 to 4 times. Cardio and strength training, and sometimes Pilates. Aside from exercise I try to eat healthily, but with my nausea the only thing I feel like eating is bread and pasta – I do try to eat smaller portions.

Did you get a baby-shower, like Americans do?
Yes, and it was amazing! Two friends from work organized my baby shower. It was so much fun! I didn’t want a ‘girly girl’ party, but wine, cocktails, a barbecue etc. The fact that I wasn’t allowed to drink didn’t mean they weren’t allowed to either! My friends did beautifully, on the rooftop of the Suit Supply office in SoHo, with an amazing view. First it was just the girls, but later the men joined us as well. They really spoiled me. I had lots of presents.

After your pregnancy you got back to your old weight super fast, even a little under your normal weight. What’s your secret?
Breastfeeding! I think that’s how I lost my baby fat. My face has also thinned. And of course exercise and a healthy diet.

And then your daugther Joei was born. You decided to quit your job at Brunello Cucinelli and fully concentrate on Joei’s upbringing. What made you decide to do this?
I really wanted to work part-time, but that wasn’t an option at Cucinelli. And the costs for day-care were about as high as my monthly wages. Plus, in NYC I only had 10 vacation-days a year. I weighted the pros and cons and ultimately decided to be a full-time mom for Joei and find out how that would suit me.

What was the hardest part about deciding not to work anymore?
Actually it was not allowing myself to think about what other people would think. I knew it was the best decision for me and her, but I still felt I had to explain myself to the world. People often, and often when not asked for, have an opinion ready, even behind your back, and I had a hard time coping with that. Until the moment I realized: I’m going to let go of what others think and get 100% behind my decision. I believe that, as mothers, we could be a bit nicer to one another and have a little more respect for each other.

How did Nishanta support you in your decision?
I am privileged that I was able, financially, to make this choice and I’m really conscious of this fact and grateful for it too. Nishanta supports me in everything and wants me to do what I feel is right for me. He admires my decision to concentrate fully on Joei’s upbringing, that I’ve started my blog and he will also like it if I should decide to find a job again in the future. He supports me and lets me do my own thing. It is really give and take. And because I’m there for Joei, I relieve him of some duties, and that makes him feel good and he is better able to do well in his job. He doesn’t have to worry about me not being there, and that makes family life a lot easier.

What advise would you give to mothers who are thinking about being a full-time mother?
Don’t let yourself be influenced by what others think. Listen carefully to your needs, because you are the only one who knows what’s good for you.

How do you like being a full-time mother?
Usually very well. I enjoy being a mother and feel it’s getting better all the time. I can really see my child develop her own personality. That’s really special. I can create a safe environment for her where she can be who she is. If she gives me kiss and calls me ‘mama’ I’m in heaven. I won’t get a reward like that from a normal job. I’m really very grateful that I’m able to experience her development up close.

What are your thoughts on upbringing?
With a nanny it always remains to be seen how she takes care of your child. You can’t demand or expect someone to do it completely your way. Now I’m able to determine her upbringing and what she eats. Eating healthy is really important to me. There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child, so I try and find a balance in that. In NYC nothing’s too crazy.

At first I found it hard not earning my own living and being dependent on Nishanta. I’ve worked since I was 15 and have always made my own money. It felt good. Still, if I get myself something, I get it with money I have saved myself. But, there is a good balance now. We do it together.

What make you most happy?
Small things. In the morning when Joei wakes up and I don’t really feel like waking up she’ll say ‘mama, mama’ with a big smile on her face and I can’t think of a better way to start the day.

Are there things you miss now you’re a full-time mother?
Yes, moments to myself, where I don’t have to think about anyone except myself. The nanny sometimes baby-sits, but I find it hard to enjoy myself when I’m on my own. And I miss the freedom to just get up and go. You really have to think about and plan in advance – it is less easy to do spontaneous things.

Do you think about getting back to work again?
In the future I will probably work again. I’d really like, for example, working 3 days. But I immensely enjoy being with Joei and being pregnant again. And we want to get married in November, probably in Miami. I will plan the wedding and am busy with my blog. My sister is pregnant as well and will deliver in April, so I’ll go and visit Amsterdam for a while to see her.

When and how do you enjoy ‘me’ time?
I usually work-out, I love that. And after 7.00pm, when Joei goes to bed, than I’ve got some time to myself. I love a glass of wine (not now, because I’m pregnant) and sit on the couch watching films and tv-series. And I really enjoy getting a mani & pedi.

The babysitter is here when I’m going for a work-out or when we’re going out for the night. There are some daycare centers in NYC. I had hoped to bring her to daycare 2 days a week, so I’d be able to work 2 days, and 1 day during the weekend when Nishanta is off from work. Unfortunately they’re full until 2015 and I’m on a waiting list. She’ll be a year old by then and will have to go to a different group, but that one is full until 2017. So it’s quite hard arranging day care here. The costs are about the same as that of a nanny, but I would like Joei to be surrounded by children of her own age.

You’ve started your own blog www.who-cares.us where you give tips for pregnancy. We love it! What made you decide to do this?
When I was pregnant I had a hard time finding inspiration in fashion. During my pregnancy I discovered for myself which designs were nice to wear and which products to use. I like sharing my own experiences and give tips, and that’s why I started my blog.

Do you like combining motherhood and your website?
It’s hard. It’s not always easy to find time to work on it since Joei is always around and wants a lot of attention. It is a lot more work than I had expected. I’m not sure yet how it will work out when the second child is here.

NYC vs. Amsterdam:
In Amsterdam it would be a lot easier for me to have some ‘me time’. People line up, in a manner of speaking, to babysit Joei, and that’s quite different here in NYC. I don’t want to ‘burden’ my friends with Joei. With family that’s different, it’s familiar. I’ll know she’ll be in good hands and that they enjoy doing it – and that enables me to enjoy myself more. Nishanta and I traveled to Sri Lanka last year and my mother came to NYC to babysit Joei. My mother loved it, both taking care of Joei and being in NYC – and because of that we enjoyed our holiday even more.

Weekend getaway:
We sometimes go to the Hamptons. Usually we stay with friends. I was in Cape Cod recently with a friend. I loved breathing in fresh air, enjoyed the space and being in nature, and not having to do anything. There is always something going on in NYC and you don’t want to miss out. That can be quite exhausting. A weekend away is a real treat. Going out to the beach, having a barbecue etc.

If you could move to a different city, which one would it be? Amsterdam, Barcelona or Tokyo. I’d go back to Amsterdam to be with my family. In the U.S.A. I’d only want to live in New York.

NYC guide Pieternel / NYC

Pancakes: Mercer

When I go to SOHO, I like to go right at 10am when the stores open. Get what I need really fast and then get pancakes at the Mercer, so delicious.

City guide Pieternel / NYC

Favorite dinner: Barrio Chino

The best authentic Mexican and delicious margaritas, located in NYC’s Lower East Side.

City guide Pieternel / NYC

Lunch: The Butcher's Daughter

I love to go to this place for a healthy lunch, they also have great juices at the tiny shop next door.

City guide Pieternel / NYC

Lovely neighborhood: West Village

The buildings are so beautiful and in Spring the streets are gorgeous with all the trees hanging over.

City guide Pieternel / NYC

Favorite hotel: Soho House

I love the soho house! Especially in the Summer, taking Joei to the pool and meeting with my friends for a coffee or a cocktail

Global guide Pieternel / The Hamptons

Favorite Coffee place: Jack's

It’s the best to wake up early with my friend get the baby’s in the car, get our favorite coffee and go for a drive so the baby’s will fall back asleep.

City guide Pieternel / NYC

Shopping: Club monaco

I really like Club Monaco on the lower 5th. But to be honest, I hate shopping. I love to get new things, but hate trying it on.

City guide Pieternel / NYC

Best coffee: Bowery coffee

After all the sleepless nights I started to love coffee, I always go for an ice latte to go, delicious.

City guide Pieternel / NYC

The East Village

I love the mix of people in the East Village, everyone is the way they are. I really like to live in this neighborhood.