Friday, 20 May 2011

Interview - Bento Part 1

I was lucky enough to interview the lovely Samantha Hardman, designer of Melbourne label Bento. Samantha is one of the fantastic designers supporting the Australian industry by manufacturing all her garments in Melbourne!

Read more about Bento here.

Given her unique background and smart approach to marketing her label, Samantha had some great knowledge and insights to share about her experiences in the fashion industry.

1. You started off your career working in the banking industry. Why did you decide to make the transition from Banker to Designer? 
To say I was a banker is actually a bit of a stretch, it’s just the easiest way to put it. I actually worked in senior management for a major bank in a marketing role. Anyway – it was about following a dream. I’d always wanted to work in fashion and I eventually decided there’s no time like the present!

2. What was the most difficult thing about making this career change?
As superficial as it sounds, giving up a very healthy regular salary has been tough!

3. When talking about your career to date, you said even if you could go back and change the past, you wouldn’t. How have you used your experience in the corporate world to help your business today?
As I mentioned before, my background, although very corporate, has been in marketing. Having the knowledge, skillset and experience I have in marketing has been invaluable in building a new brand… albeit in a very different industry!

4. You support the Australian industry by manufacturing all your clothes in Melbourne. Why did you decide to manufacture in Australia and not outsource it overseas?
Many reasons! Initially, it was about being able to personally observe and examine the working environments of people involved in manufacturing Bento garments. I’ve read and seen a lot of horrific things about working environments overseas and I wanted to ensure we were supporting ethical manufacturing. Secondly, from a carbon footprint and environmental perspective, keeping a supply chain geographically tight is a big step toward minimising the impact of the construction process. Finally, we also wanted to support the Australian economy. Next season we will release the first garments where the sheep live in Victoria, were sheered in Victoria, their wool milled and dyed in Victoria, the garment designed in Victoria, the fabric cut and the garment sewn in Victoria, the care labels woven in Victoria and the swing tags designed and printed in Victoria. 

5. Were there any challenges with choosing to manufacture your clothes in Australia?
Many – there are countless pressures from stockists about reducing your price point by manufacturing overseas (I expect this will change over time), lots of people believe that something manufactured locally isn’t the same calibre as something made overseas too. There’s also just the sheer difficulty finding them – there aren’t many locals left!

6. Your clothes are perfect for the office, but can just as easily transition to after work dinner and drinks? How has your experience working in the banking industry influenced your designs?
Thank you! Working in a traditional office for so many years definitely gave me a deep understanding as to what women look for in versatile pieces. I spent 8 – 12 hours a day with my target market for 10 years! 

Click here for Part 2 of this interview!

Here's a sneak peak of some of the beautiful pieces from Bento's AW11 collection:

Images courtesy of,,


  1. Great post, I love the mauve-y color with the lace collar in the last picture! I love your blog, I’m following now via Google Friend Connect and Bloglovin! Hope you follow back.

    xx. VLM.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment VLM, and thanks for your support! Bento's pieces are not only beautifully made, but versatile as well:)

    Great work with your blog! I'm following you too:)



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