Carla Zampatti

“They identified with what I was doing because I was wearing what I was doing. I was one of them.”

Carla Zampatti, fashion designer, 1942-1921

Italian-born Zampatti migrated to Australia in 1950 and set up her eponymous fashion label in her early 20s. Known for her incredible work ethic, she was active in the women’s liberation movement of the ’60s and by the 1970s she was expanding her own line of retail boutiques across Australia and New Zealand. She was known for her sharp tailoring, and keen understanding of a new era of women who both worked and had a social life. Her designs have been worn by some of Australia’s most powerful women, including former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and actor Nicole Kidman. Elegant and trailblazing, Zampatti’s designs were much like her. And while feminine, they were also serious fashion pieces. 

In 1985, Ford commissioned her to design the interior of its Laser vehicle, which she did, taking into account floor mats to accommodate high heels and seat coverings that reduced static. It was a resounding success. In the 90s she introduced a collection of “power” suits that demonstrated her design house ethos of “elevated simplicity” and clothing that is timeless. Although influenced by her Italian heritage, she also supported Australian manufacturers and supported Ethical Clothing Australia.

For the brand’s 50th Anniversary it staged a fashion show at the iconic Sydney Opera House which was also the location of their first real fashion shoot in the brand’s infancy. This building would go on to have significance in Zampatti’s life, and ultimately, her death, too. 

Zampatti died tragically and publicly at the age of 78 after a fall on the stairs of the Sydney Opera House on the opening night of La Traviata, a popular love story set in Paris. In the third act of the opera, the heroine also dies.

The international media acknowledgements after her death owed less to her fashion and business skills than to her extraordinary success story from such unlikely beginnings, becoming an icon and role-model for immigrants, women and the arts. 


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