Bianca Spender. Occupation Fashion designer. Age 42 Relationship status In a relationship. Best known for Her eponymous label. Currently Celebrating 10 years of her label.
Bianca Spender is currently celebrating 10 years of her label.Credit:James Brickwood
My paternal grandfather, Sir Percy [a judge, politician and diplomat], was a very playful man. And while everyone remembers him as Sir Percy, he was a grandfather to me – a man who let me climb on his back while he’d be the horse in the garden. I never knew his incredible intellect, but I was well aware of his spirit. He died when I was eight. We moved into his home after that.
My dad, John, is a former politician, diplomat and barrister. Saturday was our time together; we’d buy croissants and walk the dog. He spent a lot of time in Canberra, so weekends were precious. I asked him a hundred questions about everything as a child. He had a huge amount of patience.
I was always Dad’s co-pilot in the family car on long trips. My mum [fashion designer Carla Zampatti] and sister [Allegra] always sat in the back. I loved reading maps and figuring out how to get somewhere. Dad didn’t mind me helping to navigate.
I used to work in Dad’s office in the school holidays, and got to go to Canberra, too. I loved seeing how he interacted with others on the street; it was eye-opening and fascinating.
I have a half brother, Alexander, from Mum’s first marriage. But to me he’s always just been my brother. He is quite tall and I remember walking alongside him on the way to school and having to skip to keep up.
Alexander always included me in his adventures. He would take Allegra and me to Palm Beach, and for our birthdays would create a journey for finding our present, with 20 clues in every room. He also loved pushing us down the massive hill on our driveway on a bike, and would get me to climb trees – and then I’d be stuck up there.
I went to an all-girls’ school but my brother’s friends were always around the house. I was comfortable with them and treated them like big brothers.
I had a crush on a guy, Tom, when I was a teenager. He was three years older than me, lived five blocks away, and I would walk my dog past his house to get his attention. One day, I pushed my dog into his garden and got chatting. It was getting dark and he offered to walk me home. I had a fluttering heart but when I got to my gate and was about to have my first kiss, Dad turned up in his car, headlights on, trying to find me. It all disintegrated in a moment.
I had a celebrity crush on Christian Slater when I was 15. I loved him in Pump Up the Volume. I loved that he was the one who couldn’t fit in at school because I related to that.
I had my first boyfriend when I was 15 – it lasted three weeks. He went hot and cold and I was devastated. He was a bit of a bad boy and it forced me to get rational about avoiding guys like that.
I had three or four boyfriends in a row, each for about 20 months, after that. I went for family-oriented guys who had strong relationships with their mums and sisters.
I went to Paris for 3½ years in the early 2000s. The French guys were always trying to be romantic, but it felt clichéd. I remember one saying to me, “Did your father take the stars out of the sky and put them in your eyes?” I burst out laughing. My Paris boyfriend was just a friend at first. He was creative and laid back, but he wasn’t career-focused like me.
I met my life partner, Sam McGuinness, in 2005. We made eye contact at a gig in Sydney. He
had a familiar face and we realised we’d both attended the same lectures at university in the ’90s – he was studying industrial design and I was doing a bachelor of commerce. I drove him home from the gig and he said we should get a meal together sometime but he didn’t take my number. A week later he guessed my email because he knew I worked for my mother and it went from there.
Sam is very supportive of my career. Marriage was never really important to us. It didn’t feel like something that was part of our story.
We have two sons: Dominic, 10, and Florian, 7. My entire workday is about women and home is entirely about men. It’s a lovely balance.
My sons have different dimensions, energies and subtleties. They need a good run outdoors or they get whiny. Being a working mum and raising sons is empowering. My kids know that what I do is what I love, and that it happens because of Sam’s support.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale October 6.
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