From the UK to Paris, New York and Valencia…Stephanie Kirtley Alacreu, originally from the UK, has lived and worked in Paris and New York and at the age of 38, has finally settled in Valencia, Spain. She is the mother of two feisty young girls Mei and Jia and after working most of her life in luxury fashion for other companies, she recently launched her own company Encantada, a bespoke relocation service and luxury concierge for Valencia, the Costa Blanca and Balearic Islands. Here she tells MumAbroad her story.
I was born in Scotland and my father being in the Royal Airforce meant we moved around a lot throughout my childhood and so I think the lust for travel, new experiences and adapting to different environments has always been a part of me.
During my uni years, I spent a year abroad studying in France which was when I fell in love with all things French and as soon as I graduated (after a short stint as a marketing intern) I headed straight for Paris where I was fortunate enough to find my dream job working at luxury fashion house Balenciaga. I spent six years there working in an electric, fast-paced and I must say very chic environment! I was totally immersed in Parisian life, the culture as a whole: its music scene, art, food, nightlife, and I had a great friendship group from all corners of the world, who I am still close to now, I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience in my twenties.
When I met my now Valencian husband on a whirlwind holiday in Formentera (where we also got married and had a lovely and simple white wedding facing the sea!), he was living in New York which meant a rather brief romantic transatlantic relationship as I took the plunge to join him stateside after just six months.
New York is a remarkable place to live, I have never found another city’s energy quite like it, I just loved the diversity and again, very quickly I submerged myself into the fast-moving, round the clock lifestyle of the Big Apple! Still working in high fashion, I worked for a brief moment alongside a talented young designer called Chris Gelinas, and then was poached by an innovative fashion tech start-up called ORDRE.com. I was very fortunate to be in a great work environment and be able to come back to Europe often and get my Paris – UK fix so I could stay connected and never feel homesick.
Our first daughter arrived quite quickly and while we did continue to enjoy the city, our lives changed so drastically. I must admit, being a full time working mum of two in a very intense (not to mention expensive!) city with a demanding job where I was in charge of growing a business across the States, managing and growing a team, while reporting to a head office in Hong Kong (!) became quite a struggle.
We did have some fun though when I think about it, I remember having to take my girls to fashion shows with me on the weekends when my husband was away during Fashion Week. They did such a good job posing for the photographers outside the shows! We managed to make it for seven years in NY, however, in the end, we decided to move back to Europe to be closer to family which I now realize is vital when raising young children. I also had my heart set on creating my own company and finally working for myself.
We have been living in Valencia now for almost two years and despite the pandemic, we couldn’t be happier. The quality of life here is just incredible, there is the perfect combination of art, culture, nightlife, stunning beaches and the most incredible modern architecture. Not to mention the Mediterranean climate and fun family-oriented atmosphere. We also just love being able to escape to the beach and surrounding areas on the weekends and eat outside almost all year round (gosh how I love a terrace, something I must have picked up in France!). Overall life feels easier here, we’re totally in love with the place and most importantly, our girls are happy with the change, especially being surrounded by their cousins who are all of the same age!
And that’s how our relocation company Encantada was born, so that I could share my love of this part of the world and help others to move here and share in its unique charms. I created the company with my sister-in-law, Maria Alacreu, who was born and raised here in Valencia who has been practising law for the last twenty years and who manages our legal services.
This last chapter has been wonderful so far and I’ve learnt so much while creating my own company, things I never thought I’d be able to do, I even learnt to code while building my website – with some help from a friend. It feels like such an achievement especially considering how technically challenged I am!
It’s still very early days but I do like to think that after feeling like a bit of a nomad all my life, I have finally settled and found my place here in Valencia.
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