VOGUE Australia



With a design signature as strong as her viewpoint, Italianbor­n, Australian-based designer Carla Zampatti made clothes for women taking their rightful place in the workforce. She recalls a time of tremendous change and empowermen­t that happily coincided with the beginning of her career.

VOGUE AUSTRALIA: Let’s talk about liberation and fashion: you were a vibrant part of Australia’s feminist revolution from the 1970s, designing clothes that empowered women.

CARLA ZAMPATTI : “My father immigrated to Australia before us: my mother was left to run the business in Italy. I observed that she worked hard and did an incredible job. I also noted that women everywhere were working hard and not receiving acknowledg­ement, let alone accolades. So from a very young age I had this strong idea in my mind that I wanted to forge my own career. It was a liberation to go after that notion and not be dependent on a husband. I believe that women can do anything. I never thought that a woman should sacrifice her life for anyone else. To put that in further context, the 60s had been a magical era because the Pill was invented. Women could suddenly control when they had babies. For the first time, we had this idea that you could build your career and set your own pathway.” VA: You also recognised that strong tailoring, a beautiful suit, could be confidence-boosting. CZ: “Totally. That has always been my ambition, to give a woman the feeling that she could go out into the world and achieve anything. As a designer, you have fundamenta­l rules and a handwritin­g, and within that you follow trends, but essentiall­y the quality and elegance of my clothing has been [the key to] my success. Clients have told me they’ve kept a jacket for 30 years and still love it. No-one throws away Carla!” VA: When you consider that fashion is an expression of cultural identity for the time, how have your designs changed? CZ: “The actual fundamenta­ls are the same, but the economy, politics and lifestyles have changed enormously. When I first started designing, the idea of having a career at a top level was almost unthinkabl­e. Women really didn’t have the courage to believe in themselves, and you can include me in that. In the beginning, I felt quite assured that the market would like my work, but I didn’t have great confidence in my ability to translate that into a business.” VA: And yet it clicked. You oversaw both the design and business sides of the brand.

CZ: “The two are totally aligned – to have a solid business you have to have a creative mind. It’s very important for a company to think outside the square. It’s crucial to have ethics and guidelines, a DNA in your designs. I also knew it was important to surround myself with great women in my team. If you give a woman the chance to grow she will do so and she will give you such loyalty in return.” VA: Over the years, your clothes never looked overdone or fussy. How did you adapt to the times?

CZ: “What I found most interestin­g were the economic shifts. In the 70s [the then Prime Minister] Gough Whitlam came into power and he dropped tariffs, and suddenly you could buy cheap clothes, which impacted the industry greatly. We just kept doing what we believed in and it worked. There was another downturn at the end of the 80s, but we found that women had begun to hit their straps in business, they had important jobs and wanted to invest in jackets and economise on eveningwea­r. We navigated that mood because we felt it coming.” VA: What do you love and loathe about the industry? CZ: “I love it all, honestly. Over the years, I have come to trust in the fact that we do well when things are tough – it brings out your strength, your survival instinct. When it gets tricky, you tend to work out ways of doing things better.” VA: Looking back, what were your greatest accomplish­ments?

CZ: “Working out how to manage my business with a young child. I was concerned, like every woman is, that I was compromisi­ng my son. I was divorced, had my business, and didn’t quite know how to balance it all. I worked out that quality time with my son was best. I applied myself to the business thoroughly but at the same time my son and I had a special relationsh­ip and it worked beautifull­y.”

 ?? ?? Carla Zampatti in her first boutique, in Sydney’s Surry Hills.
Carla Zampatti in her first boutique, in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

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