Thoughtful, precise and imaginative, Bianca J Spender designs clothes that have a rhythm. They are timeless, yet Bianca believes it is her responsibility as a designer to seek out new ideas that are resolved enough in their beauty to last. The essence of her label, Bianca Spencer, is poetic energy balanced by precise structure, and each season brings a directional collection of modern, sensual silhouettes.
The child of working parents, Bianca grew up in Woollahra, Sydney, side by side with her siblings, Alex and Allegra. Bianca recalls both her sister and her growing up fast to try to join in on the fun of their older brother. As the daughter of an Australian fashion matriarch, fashion was always a part of her universe. She has a historical perspective on design, holding reverence for those who came before her, and builds upon this to create a modern beauty that engages with the senses and spirit of the wearer.
Bianca is a longtime collaborator of Showroom-X, joining us in our We Wear Australia campaign. We are delighted to be in conversation with Bianca on craft, longevity, and the Australian creative landscape.
“Someone once said that I design for women with curly hair, and I think that’s a great metaphor – that I design for women who don’t need everything in control, a more organic sensuality.“
“It’s an interesting time for designers and creatives to be true to their vision with less noise from the outside world."
Do you think there’s a common thread between Australian design and creativity? Something within the realm of design or dressing that feels innately regional?
I believe we have a more relaxed approach driven by our proximity to the ocean and nature. But we have different light, it’s a harsh and strong light that creates our vivid colour palette.
I also love the direct voice of designing coming through more with social media rather than the traditional wholesale channels, it’s so much closer to the customer. It also creates unique groups like Showroom X and the combined interests and discussions about creativity and design and that fashion is more than what you wear. It’s the storytelling of people dressing for themselves.
How would you best describe what you do professionally?
I’m very fortunate that my work and craft allow me to explore and challenge all that inspires me creatively. My day-to-day is about pushing that craftsmanship, learning more, and leaning into where that takes me.
What drew you to fashion design?
I love the way that fashion and what you wear can change the way you feel. That choice can improve your mood or make you feel strong and help see you through your day.
What do you enjoy about it?
I love the journey I get to go on each season, the storytelling of each garment in its drape. I am a true math geek at heart, so I love nothing more than draping and pattern-making to solve a problem.
What inspires you professionally?
I’ve always had an affinity for the arts, dance and movement and, of course, nature. Working with other creatives who have a strong vision and are collaborative inspires me. It’s always been rewarding to meld creativity between different dialects. I especially loved working with Rafael at Sydney Dance Company for this reason.
Tell me about your day-to-day. Where do you live? What does a typical day look like for you?
Most mornings, I am on the bus or train with my kids to go to school, or I bike in to work. My week always starts with meetings, and I leave Wednesday to Friday free for creativity. If you’re by the studio, you’ll likely see me, an extrovert, talking with a tea in my hand.
What is exciting for you about the current Australian creative landscape?We are dynamic in the way we have ideas and let them grow. We’re always open to new concepts or views. Since Covid, we are honing into our own creative process and aren’t as outward-looking. It’s an interesting time for designers and creatives to be true to their vision with less noise from the outside world and really get a chance to focus on the Australian customer.
Do you think there’s a common thread in Australian design and creativity? Something within the realm of design or dressing that feels innately regional?
I believe we have a more relaxed approach driven by our proximity to the ocean and nature. But we have different lights. It’s a harsh and strong light that creates our vivid colour palette.
How would you describe your approach to dressing? And how does it make you feel?
I dress for movement, how it feels on my body and how it dances with me. I’m often most comfortable in a full-length dress and no shoes. It’s about freedom and self-expression.
Who are some of your favourite designers?
Ryan Storrier, Dinosaur Designs and Sarah Sebastian all for very different reasons - they all have a beautiful craft. Designers Phoebe Philo & Clare Waight Keller. The Creativity of Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garçons. Original Balenciaga for his incredible cut. Vintage Madame Grès and Madeleine Vionnet for their draping.
Is there a piece from your wardrobe that you ‘can’t do without’?
My grandfather’s watch.
Tell me a little about your approach to beauty and wellness.
I enjoy the simple things of walking or riding to work, swimming in the ocean and meditation. I drink lots of water and am never without a cup of herbal tea.
What does luxury mean to you?
Tell me a little about Bianca Spender. What motivated you to start the label?
I truly love the craft, and I wanted to create freedom for women. Someone once said that I design for women with curly hair, and I think that’s a great metaphor – that I design for women who don’t need everything in control, a more organic sensuality.
What are some changes you’ve noted in the fashion industry in recent times? For example, with Ethical or Sustainable fashion, or digitisation and technology?
It’s exciting to see the focus on sustainability. We have always been Australian made, and I had some people think I was a dinosaur for not moving to offshore production however many years ago, but it’s so great now to see this is something we can again have pride in. As a brand, we still have a long journey to go. I also love the direct voice of designing coming through more with social media rather than the traditional wholesale channels. It’s so much closer to the customer. It also creates unique groups like Showroom X and the combined interests and discussions about creativity and design, and that fashion is more than what you wear. It’s the storytelling of people dressing for themselves.
What is your approach towards maintaining a responsible business?
To me, it’s about making choices that are right for me as a designer and a business, and not bending to industry pressures on sale timings or what fashion week should look like.
How do you envisage the future of fashion?
I feel there will be a continued shift toward the need for transparency and improvement on the constant evolution to design creatively and understand the use of limited precious resources—moves like working with deadstock and designing within those limitations to reduce new fabric production.
Do you have any idols - professional or personal?
I don’t like to idolise people – we are all inspiring and flawed in many ways.
What or who is currently inspiring your world at the moment?
Anne Hollander’s fashion and drape, Joan Didion’s book The Year of Magical Thinking, Story Work with Bridget Brandon, Veda Mediation and The Met’s About Time: Fashion and Duration Exhibition (you can watch it online).
Describe your workspace – where is it located, and what do you need around you to feel creatively motivated?
We are currently in Darling Point, Sydney. I like to have a space that feels mine and energy in the office. We have the bay and harbour across the road, and having that nature and sense of openness nearby is wonderful for creating calm.