David Bardas: the Man Behind the Brand

David Lawrence has always reflected the times and the women who wear it. Since the brand’s creation in 1978, it has been synonymous with luxury, modernity and female empowerment. This year we celebrated 40 years of being at the forefront of fashion and as we celebrate achieving this milestone, we look back at our rich history and remind ourselves of the journey we took to get here. Revisiting the David Lawrence story is impossible without revisiting the brand’s founder, David Bardas’ own. Our General Manager, Tina van Zyl, along with a few members from the David Lawrence team, enjoyed a celebratory luncheon with David and his daughter Belinda at Melbourne’s exclusive Bachas Restaurant. They discussed the brand’s humble origins, the setbacks, the seemingly endless frustrations and the euphoric triumphs that are part of the brand’s history.

Here is our story so far.

(Top right: David Bardas)


It all started with Sportscraft. David Bardas’ family, along with three other families, established the business in 1914 and were inspired by the concession approach International brands like Jaegar took in London when it came to showcasing their wares. Given the success of Sportscraft it was only natural for the families to explore new ventures and Sportsgirl was founded in 1948, however, Sportsgirl didn’t experience the same initial success as Sportscraft and the brand struggled in its early years.
Fashion has always been a part of David Bardas’ life and rather than spending his holidays with friends he worked tirelessly at Wendouree Woolen Mills to better prepare himself to join the family business. His father taught him that all he’d ever need to know could be found in ancient swatch books and the two would look over them together and discuss textures and compare fabrics. At a young age David knew that all the time he invested into fashion would lead to his future success. David’s father passed in 1956 while he was studying law at Melbourne University and although he was only 22, he was now responsible for making Sportsgirl successful.
The swinging sixties came and went and the second wave of feminism meant that more women were entering the workplace but no brands really capitalized on that change in society. Country Road was created in 1974 and for several years it competed with Sportscraft for influence over the Australian womenswear market until David Lawrence, previously David Lawrence Design Studio (DLDS) was founded in 1978. David, seeing a niche in the market, created the brand in order to offer women tailored pieces and classic silhouettes for the office. He also had a sense of humour, naming the brand after British novelist and poet D H Lawrence whose novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover had recently become available when censorship in Australia loosened.
David had a good eye when it came to hiring people and he chose then Sportsgirl knitwear buyer Daphne O’Brien to lead the brand. O’Brien’s designs were influenced by Giorgio Armani’s design principles of using quality fabrics to make minimal silhouettes. These design principles have been at the heart of our brand and designers past and present have used them to influence the pieces they’ve created for the brand. Although David is no longer the chief executive of Sportscraft/Sportsgirl or David Lawrence, he’s still very much part of the fabric of our brand and his story continues to be a source of inspiration for our team.

(Left: Tina van Zyl. Top right: the David Lawrence team. Bottom right: Belinda Bardas)

David’s words of wisdom.
David has had an incredibly successful career in fashion that has flourished for over four decades. His top four tips for success in the fashion industry are:
  1. Quality fabrics are the basis
  2. Find a niche in the market with a point of difference
  3. Continually adapt to competition and change
  4. Never run scared of competition
At David Lawrence we embrace these principles and we thank David for his many years of support, sacrifice and devotion to the brand.

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