Looking Back on Bandhini's Beginnings

Looking Back on Bandhini's Beginnings

As a kid you always wonder “What am I going to be when I grow up?” It’s also one of those hapless questions adults ask toddlers. Fireman, astronaut or another beloved profession wee kids think is noble? Well back then at least, ask today and they’d probably say “famous” huh. 

Seriously how do any of us really ever know? And now that I’ve seriously grown up and tipped into the place on the other side of hill where I’m not wanting to do anything seriously career-wise but just enjoy every day I’m given, I still probably don’t know.

Growing up in a wee country town in Central Otago NZ - born in Clyde and raised in Alexandra - you always just wanted to get out and see the big wide world and wherever that takes you. But I did actually know who I thought I might like to be: a journalist. I wanted to travel the world and tell stories about people all over the planet - how they thought, what religion they believed and why they thought we are all on this planet together. That I still want to do, but then I ended up in fashion magazines. Ironic isn’t it, for a girl who grew up in jodphur boots and jeans and begrudgingly wore a dress only on her mother’s demand?

Apart from spending most of my childhood on the back of a horse, I hung out entirely with my Nana in her very expansive and beautifully designed garden. She was one of those nanas that was good at everything. Not only a horticulturalist, she could make a magnificent three-course meal from what seemed to me a carrot and two apples. It was always beautifully presented on fine linen and china and in her classically-decorated home filled with a contemporary wall of white shelving (housing the curated Wedgwood), linen and leather chairs in styles sought after today.

Nana and grandad were great world travellers so they had that extra layer of beautifully crafted items from origins far away, displayed gallery-style. It was a historic home that my Uncle (a senior partner and architect with the renowned Dunedin firm, Mason and Wales) had renovated for them to give a modern edge. So, as you can say, the finer things in life were definitely an early impression.

Nana was also a tailoress, as was her sister Aunty Joy, who had a very upmarket store in Dunedin in the early 1900s. My Nana, Hazel, could do everything she turned her hand to - crochet, tatting, knitting and textile design. Is anything sounding impressionable here? Well they do say we are the sum total of our experiences, so don’t ever discount what a child absorbs in early childhood. I would be that girl in Home Ec classes who never ended up finishing that apron the rest of the class was making and was the one making morning tea for everyone- thank god I learned to cook. I did, however, adore all my nanas textiles and noted everything that went into their construction.

In my last year of high school I was incredibly lucky to receive an AFS scholarship and went to Thailand. I was so excited as this opened up my first opportunity to see how the rest of the world lived and to live with them for a year. Throwing myself into this cultural experience of a Buddhist country that thought, ate and acted far differently I thought was my life’s mission. There were, however, these absolutely wonderful stores there that whilst my friends were all hanging out in Dunkin Donuts (yeah even in the early 80s American chains had permeated there), I was entranced by the Jim Thompson silk stores. They were absolutely divine. I immediately cemented that whatever I do in my life, I want to be surrounded by beautiful things and textiles. Ahhh you see, you gotta be careful what you hope for hey 😌

As it turns out, I did have that career in the media but in my early 20s I found found myself in an equally exotic country, India, seeking truth and enlightenment, then living for a period of a decade as a celibate nun back in NZ - very simply in ashrams and concentrating on charity work of feeding people (ha, bet you didn’t know that bout me!).

But then again the fabric came, and it seems my destiny was sealed after this trip to India and meeting a family that would become my extended one. It was initially with fashion company Assan that I was working with in Perth, first as a PR consultant and then as a full time employee and buyer. They had over 16 suppliers in India but there was one that shone like the sun for quality and style, plus we became fast friends with Sweety and Mithoo and collaborated on the first homewares collection that I could see working in the company’s stores. This was the start of the Lifestyle stores in the early 90s. After 20 years Assan then went into retirement, but I continued with the interior textiles and Bandhini Australia was born in a style that has evolved but kept those classic evergreens it still has today.