Thinking about the future of Australian fashion without the enigmatic presence of Carla Zampatti is a challenge. The vital designer’s surprise death at the age of 78 after falling at the opera is a shock and devastating blow to the industry.
Try naming another local designer who has built brand awareness across generations. Zampatti’s elegant creations find favor with Princess Mary, politicians, a legion of newsreaders and the mother of all favor.
Damien Woolnough with Carla Zampatti. (Instagram)
Before I became a fashion editor, the unmistakable Italian Zampatti was already an established personality who brought a welcome dose of European glamor to Australia’s coast. Zampatti’s fame made her a favorite with the press and the general public, and gained further notoriety when she named a special edition Ford Laser in 1985.
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Years later, I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing this formidable, confident woman several times, only to find that her energy and strength would leave any car in the dust.
With her chic silver hair, ubiquitous sunglasses, and tiny, slender figure, Zampatti started conversations with a low whisper, forcing you to lean in and feel the full force of her attraction. Just when you were lulled into a sweet sense of security, she shared her heartfelt opinions about the industry, your most recent review, or someone’s misjudged outfit. It was never malicious, mostly accurate, and always incredibly entertaining.
Delta Goodrem with Carla Zampatti. (Instagram / Yaya Stempler)
After Zampatti weathered the 2008 global financial crisis aka Global Frock Crisis and a new generation of designers stole headlines, including their notable daughter Bianca Spender, there was very little left to prove.
Zampatti’s power was so strong that she rarely bothered to appear on the official Australian Fashion Week schedule, but instead put her supporters and fans in her comfortable home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, the Sydney Opera House and her sprawling private headquarters Invited runway events.
In the 2011 documentary about street photographer Bill Cunningham, US Vogue editor Anna Wintour said, “We all dress for Bill.” Well, here in Australia we’d all show up for Carla.
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Carla Zampatti, 78, died after a serious fall while attending an opera in Mrs Macquarie Point last week. (Instagram / Carla Zampatti)
The shows rarely rocked the boat with their sleek silhouettes, block colors, and tasteful prints. In contrast to her colleagues, Zampatti was never afraid to accept the “C-word” – commercialism.
Instead of resting on her golden laurels, Zampatti believed in giving something back. In 2018 she launched the Carla Zampatti Foundation Design Award for students at UTS and awarded the winner $ 25,000 for studying at a selected international institution.
I remember watching Zampatti at one of the awards shows and taking the time to share her wisdom and experience with all of the finalists. She would embrace creativity, but emphasize the importance of understanding production, budgets, and profit margins.
Zampatti’s accomplishments went well beyond the fashion world, she oversaw many business women and appeared on influential bodies, but on the high street, on the shelves of David Jones and on the shoulders of those who refuse to go to dinner in active attire, their loss becomes felt to be.