Kit Hunzinger in
her studio, Shop Kit, on Wisconsin Avenue in Waukesha.
Schmidt/Special to The Freeman
WAUKESHA — She had nothing but “a suitcase and a dream.”
few days after graduating from college, Kristin
Hunzinger, known as “Kit”, purchased a one-way ticket to
New York City.
just wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to just
throw myself in the water and learn how to swim,”
Hunzinger, who grew up in Oconomowoc, knew by age 8 that
she wanted a career in fashion and taught herself to
sew. After high school, she was admitted to Savannah
College of Art and Design, where for four years she
furthered her studies and technique.
accomplishments notwithstanding, Hunzinger said her
family still was a bit surprised when she announced a
plan to move to New York City immediately after
Fueled by youth and ambition, she set out and upon
arrival in the metropolis gave herself three days to
find an apartment.
truly wanted to be a fashion designer and I had always
dreamt of stepping out the door and being somewhere,”
Hunzinger said. “I didn’t care how hard it was, I wanted
that struggle, that challenge,” she said.
was the start of a career that Hunzinger would carefully
build, making connections and gaining experience working
for corporate apparel retailers and couture designers to
become an established New York City fashion designer
before circling back to Wisconsin to build her own label
in a home grown studio.
Hunzinger’s first job in New York was with the GAP,
where she was hired after a recruiter discovered her
college portfolio. She worked both as a designer and
behind the scenes on concepts.
long after, Hunzinger’s college dean called to tell her
about an up-and-coming designer, Juan Carlos Obando, who
had recently been designated the Council of Fashion
Design Award / Vogue Fashion Fund Finalist and was
looking for a seamstress to help him finish his
Council of Fashion awards are presented after a
year-long competition, with winners receiving the
financial backing to present a collection.
“This was JC’s first big show. His first launch to the
world. I sewed up his collection with him, all-nighter
after all-nighter,” Hunzinger said. “It was such a rush.
I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.”
was her first opportunity to work in couture and in
putting together runway for New York Fashion Week.
Hunzinger went on to work closely with Obando for many
years. Through him, she met several other high profile
designers with whom she assisted in finishing
collections and in work for runway, photoshoots, as well
as sales and presentations. In designer Carol Hannah’s
flagship studio, Hunzinger was one of five seamstresses
sewing as many as three gowns a day for vendors across
the nation and customized individual brides.
Working closely with the designers, Hunzinger learned
about building a label. Working closely with the
seamstresses, she learned about different backgrounds
and traditions, enhancing her appreciation of her craft.
change of pace
was going well, when two years ago Hunzinger was struck
by the need for a sabbatical from the New York pace of
Hunzinger decided to return to Wisconsin and to devote
two months to building her own collection while working
at her family’s cabin.
a time, the location was ideal, “an introverted space,”
where Hunzinger was able to work.
soon she found that her two-month time frame was not
enough to create an entire label, and for the moment,
she had maximized her creative time in the Wisconsin
woods. With a wealth of personal connections in the
area, it seemed like the right time to look for a local
Hunzinger discovered an open location at 521 Wisconsin
Ave. in Waukesha. The building is home to several
artists, each with individual studio space but all
enjoying a collective common area. It was the kind of
studio Hunzinger had often dreamed of having.
has a plan for everything,” said Hunzinger, who moved in
last May and opened the doors of Shop Kit at the end of
up and running, splashes of color from Hunzinger’s
creations and supplies accent the white walls of the
studio, illuminated by natural light from the large
Similar to her start in learning the trade, Hunzinger is
now teaching herself the business components of running
her own label, called “Kit.”
Hunzinger’s line is focused on women’s evening wear,
including gowns for runway and aisle debuts, and is
balanced by accessory design. All pieces are designed
and made by Hunzinger. Although she can envision hiring
staff in the future, for now she enjoys being the sole
manager of her art and craft.
is a label that she describes as “classic and organic,
with a touch of whimsical,” and is designed to instill
strength and femininity.
“Ultimately, what I strive to create and achieve is
confidence,” she said.
of her clients are from the east and west coasts and fly
in to visit her Waukesha studio. Hunzinger said keeping
her social media accounts active has helped her maintain
contacts as she grows her operation.
“It’s been really great. A graceful transition. I can
still learn things as I go,” she said.
work is drawing a local customer base as well, like Lisa
Peterson of Waukesha, who has purchased items both for
herself and as gifts from the Kit label.
love her things,” said Peterson, who praised Hunzinger’s
workmanship and added that it is beneficial for the
community to be the setting for Shop Kit.
am thrilled when a young person lives in the area and
contributes by not only be being here, but by having a
business that supports our local economy,” Peterson
Hunzinger jets back to New York on a regular basis, as
she works as a concept designer and production maker for
Victoria’s Secret. She maintains couture positions as
well. “I am always on call and am jumping in to assist
other designers as they finish the final details of
their collections while out in New York,” said Hunzinger,
who also helps in theatre, film, and television with
pattern has emerged of enjoying New York life and work,
and then coming back to Wisconsin to catch a breath.
Hunzinger said she likes being part of the local
community and working on projects like a drive she
coordinated last fall on behalf of military personnel.
Working with Diana Markus, owner of Mama D’s Coffee,
Hunzinger organized boxes to be filled with items of use
for service members, giving a Shop Kit tote to the
donators and then mailing the packages herself.
was well-received,” said Markus, who said every box
Hunzinger dropped off was filled.
Markus said Hunzinger understands the sense of community
in the area and has a zest for work and philanthropy
that is contagious.
is such a go-to-it, high energy young lady,” Markus
said. “I love that she’s back in the community.”
Hunzinger also teaches sewing classes at her studio, for
ages 3 and up. It is an effort to pass on her own
appreciation for her craft, an inclination discovered in
childhood that still holds true.
answer to fixing anything is a needle and thread,”