Australian designer Bianca Spender began her fashion journey working with her mother, the late Carla Zampatti, in 2004, before embarking on her own sartorial path with an eponymous brand in 2009. But it took a pandemic for the 44-year-old woman changes it. voice of fashion, loosening its signature seam to adapt to changing times.
Bianca’s focus now is on tailoring with a twist, where asymmetrical lines give a sense of movement as we propel into a new way of dressing. Strong shoulders have been ditched for softer silhouettes as she finds new ways to express herself.
Bianca has spent most of that year at home, juggling work and distance learning, but used the time to lean into her mothering powers, learned to silence her inner critic, and transformed her grief. and its loss in a moment of empowerment. Her mother is never far from her mind – for this shoot,
she wears an apple necklace, a 30th birthday present from her mother who wore it in the 1970s.
She most recently worked with the Sydney Dance Company, of which her mother had been a board member since 2012. The resulting performance, Years, features pieces from the Bianca Spender Archives and will be available online November 4-6.
How has the pandemic changed your collection?
I’ve always loved tailoring, but with the pandemic, we deconstructed our aesthetic and made jackets out of stretch fabrics, or some weren’t lined, others didn’t have collars. We made jackets and broke away from the traditional look of male tailors. We also moved away from the trenches and key parts of the companies.
For me, it was about turning to washable fabrics, where even light colors or shiny pieces still had a special touch but could go in the washing machine at the end of the day. People also had to be inspired to buy. We needed more fun in our clothes – so I did it by exaggerating the volume and making it more playful.
Which silhouette is unique to you and captures what the brand is?
I have the impression that my brand is more of a movement than a silhouette. It’s about the feel of the clothes, and I want an innate sense of freedom in all the clothes. I call it liberated sewing. It doesn’t have to be, it’s about clothes you can dance in. I’m striding along and my arms are still moving because I’m the biggest gesticulator in the world. I want clothes that allow and embrace this movement. Whether it’s asymmetry, drape or twist, this three-dimensional movement is permeated in all my clothes.
What future for Australian fashion? Australian fashion is more in tune with the COVID-19 world than any other country. We have always integrated relaxation and comfort into our clothes; a weekend-inspired look has always been part of us, and now we’re focusing on that more than ever. People are more connected to local designers and local markets. Australian designers are closer to their consumers and I hope that in the future we will engage more in local manufacturing; it is fundamental for us to prosper as an industry.
“I have the impression that my brand is more of a movement than a silhouette. It’s about the feel of the clothes, and I want an innate sense of freedom in all the clothes.
Your siblings also work in fashion. Do family dinners and make-up meetings revolve around business discussions?
I love being one of three children. We all grew up in business and during the school holidays I worked with mom. She hated the idea of us being home watching TV, and as a working mom, I understand that.
My sister, Allegra, was CEO for almost a decade and my brother, Alexander, is CEO of Carla Zampatti. There is indeed a dialogue which begins between us; the company is like the other child in the family that we always end up talking about. But there are days when we pull the line and say this is a non-fashion date. Having siblings in the business is also a wonderful source of support. My brother and sister have amazing minds, and knowing that I can connect with their different perspectives on the industry is a gift.
Tell us how your mother’s legacy continues to inspire you.
Mom has always had an amazing presence and with her passing I really reflected on what her energy, her spirit and her life represent in me. Mom had so much courage and determination, commitment and determination, and a true vision of women’s equality for which she fought so fiercely. This for me is more than ever in the foreground of my mind.
Since his death, I have really felt committed to making a difference. You only have one life. You have to make the change you want to see. I push hard in my designs and my business to create an environment that resembles me and where women thrive, whether it’s my client or my staff, and feel more confident to take risks and be dynamic.
Mom had this ability to forget her mistakes, I never really had such a gift. I think we need to be more lenient with ourselves. We can be our best friend or our harshest critic, but we have to learn to be our best friend. I try as much as possible to push myself to stand up for the people around me so that they believe in themselves.
What’s next for you?
I’m collaborating with the Sydney Dance Company for a world premiere the first week of November. During these times it is important to bring dancing to people because we have been so far removed from the emotional creative experience. I will direct the costumes and delve into the archives of the past decade for the show. Dance can powerfully stimulate our emotions, and the Sydney Dance Company offers this meaningful experience to the public as a gift in these turbulent times. The performance will be complete and available free online.
My mother was an avid supporter of the arts and a former director of the board of directors of the Sydney Dance Company. The performance is therefore dedicated to her legacy – she was so influential in moving the company forward and supporting new works.
The music itself is so deeply connected with mum and our experience as mum. Dancers have so much emotion in their body, and the clothes reflect so much emotion when they move. Music takes it to another level.
How do you like to relax the most?
I love to swim – there’s nothing quite like diving into a cold body of water in the ocean to hit the life reset. I also like to take a bath and I like to walk in Centennial Park on the weekends and take a walk. Night walks are amazing if you’ve had a day that you can’t give up.
How did you approach motherhood during the pandemic while working from home?
I like being a mom. I am a deeply motherly person who enjoys being in the midst of my family. It has been wonderful to be with them at the moment and to understand how much I revel in this motherly role. I am comfortable and cannot guess myself as a mom. I am quite instinctive and I have a clear vision. I question myself a lot more in design and fashion.
Tell us about your diagnosis of dyslexia and that of your nine-year-old son, Florian.
We have had a great trip the last few years. My son had a hard time reading. He was incredibly bright but couldn’t keep up with reading or writing. It caused real distress and I am such a mother bear. I wanted to know what was going on.
There is so much to learn about how our mind works and how we educate in schools and learn. It was then that I discovered that Florian and I were both dyslexic. It was fascinating because it made so much sense to me.
For my son, we started looking for ways to focus on his progress – more oral presentations and less spelling. At work, I was honest with my team and allowed myself to be vulnerable about it, and it opened up dialogues with others.
“The next winter collection I’m working on is very courageous. This courage is bound to lose mom. I feel the need to connect to the depth of the experience of loss through my work.
Grieving is so personal. How did you deal with the loss of your mother?
Everyone cries in different ways and I have always been the most open book in my family. I think I felt lucky to be able to grieve through the clothes and express how I feel. I know that I will come back to these collections which are profoundly changed for having lost mom at that time.
The next winter collection I’m working on is very brave. This courage is bound to lose mom. I feel the need to connect to the depth of the experience of loss through my work. My fashion is an extension of that.
Fashion editor: Penny McCarthy. Photographer: Hugh Stewart. Hair: Graeme Cumming. Make-up: Aimie Fiebig.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine in the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale October 31. To learn more about Sunday Life, visit The Sydney Morning Herald and Age.
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