Fashioning the Future

Elizabeth Bence was dress designer to Sydney's rich and famous, designing haute couture wear for more than 40 years. In the 1980s her gowns regularly won the prestigious Black and White Charity Ball competition.

In 1949,  having studied fashion design in Prague,  Elizabeth Bence arrived in Australia and quickly found work in the growing fashion industry.  She taught privately from home while working as a freelance designer to local manufacturing houses from Brisbane to Bondi. She was employed in 1962 as a professional designer and offered a handsome salary, more than 4 times the then basic wage.

In 1965, wanting to branch out on her own, Mrs Bence then opened a boutique in Gordon, selling her own label.

"At that time there was a trend to follow the international fashion houses and I supplemented my own designs with exclusive label imports", says Elizabeth Bence.

With her creations often winning first and second place at the Black and White Ball over the years, Mrs Bence has been a long time observer as well as maker of fashion.

"In 1968 after being in Australia for 20 years, she went to Italy to the prestigious Marangoni Institute in Milan. Realising that fashion had moved so far ahead Mrs Bence realized that in order to stay ahead she needed to refresh her ideas. “Techniques had changed as well as material and styles nd I wanted to be at the forefront of fashion design in Australia", says Mrs Bence.

To guarantee a comprehensive collection for her clients, Mrs Bence opened a second boutique in Double Bay in 1984. She was no stranger to the area, having supplied her own designs to many of the boutiques  20 years earlier. In the end, the Double Bay salon, started as an extension of her north shore interests, grew to be even bigger than Gordon.

The Double Bay boutique was the only outlet stocking the Yves Saint Laurent 'Variation' label and offered many other French labels exclusively in Australia including Givenchy and Valentino. After running two of her own boutiques for 33 years and outfitting the prominent fashion icons of Australia including Prime Minister’s wives, politicians  and entertainers, she opened a fashion school, Elizabeth Bence School of Fashion where she is now principal and teacher.

Personally known over the years to many of her favourite deisgners, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Valentino, Mrs Bence describes her own style as being feminine and soft.

Frequent articles have appeared in the press over the years. The articles  feature Mrs Elizabeth Bence, her creations and her prestigious clientele, as well as her unique fashion school which now attracts students from all over the world to study Applied Fashion Design and Technology (from Certificate through to Advanced Diploma level.