Sisters Bianca and Allegra Spender

Bianca has always supported me. During this year’s federal election campaign [when Allegra ran for, and won, the Sydney electorate of Wentworth], she came to events no matter how busy she was. Then she would drive me home and take care of me. She gives a mean massage. She is also candid with me. The other day she said: “You have to go to the hairdresser.” No one else would tell me that.

I feel accepted by Bianca, with warts and all. I’m not as communicative as she is, but she will ask if I try to stop because she cares. I am so proud of what she has accomplished, but I wish she was less self-critical. She strives for excellence, but she can be strict with herself.

I feel unconditional love for Bianca, and that is something huge. Our relationship is very real; we don’t get around the hard stuff. It has gotten stronger over the years; we are more honest with each other now than when we were younger. We have learned to love and respect our differences, rather than fight them. Sometimes you wonder who will love you for the rest of your life. I know Bianca will, and that’s important to say.

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bianca: When we were young, I felt a strong sense of responsibility for Allegra. We moved when I was nine and no longer had a nanny. Mom and Dad were working after school and often out in the evenings, so most of the time we were just the two of us. We trusted each other and made each other feel safe. It was a big house and there were a lot of noises, so we fell asleep together in Mom and Dad’s bed.

I liked playing the mother role: ironing Allegra’s clothes or buying food she liked. When I was three, we went to the park and people said, “Isn’t she cute?” and I’d say, “She’s my daughter, you know.” One day, as a teenager, Allegra turned to me and said, “I don’t need two mothers. I already have one.”

Allegra had a strong moral compass from an early age. When I was 9 years old, I told my parents that if I went to a boy’s house with friends, I would go to a movie. I told Allegra the truth in case something went wrong and she said, “I don’t think you should lie to Mom and Dad. I don’t feel comfortable in this position.” She was 14.

“I realized that as passionate as I was about my creative designs, I was more passionate about my sister.”

Growing up, people often thought I was the younger sister because I was so loud and talkative. Allegra was always a deep thinker, more considered. When we were in our late teens, I said to her, “Why do all these guys want to go out with me, but none of them want to be my friend?” She said, “Well, why do all my male friends want to go out with you and not me? Why do they just want to be my friends?”

Working together in the family business went through ups and downs. I felt so lucky to have her incredible mind dedicated to my business; it gave me a lot of peace. The challenge was that I have a big, creative mind and am a super dreamer. I would show her something I had made up and Allegra, who is a practical thinker and dresser, would say, “Where am I wearing this? Where do I put it?” Striking the balance between the creative and the commercial was always complex, because we were so close I didn’t want to go against her, which meant trying to convince her, and that was a challenge.

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Around 2012 I had a nightmare that she was going back to England [Allegra’s husband is English]. I didn’t know how long we would stay in the same country and here we argued about fundraisers. I woke up crying and realized that as passionate as I was about my creative designs, I was more passionate about my sister. Together we found a way to get the necessary feedback without feeling crushed by it.

I have a deep sense of the unconditional love we have. I know that if I ever did something that I would be terribly ashamed of, she would still love me. I feel lucky every day to have her in my life.

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