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Feminist, immigrant, icon: how Carla Zampatti built her fashion legacy | Fashion

WWith the sudden death of Carla Zampatti, Australia has lost perhaps its most successful and beloved fashion designer. Zampatti was that rare beast of intergenerational relevance. He celebrated his 55th year in business before Covid closed in early 2020. He did not retire when he died at the age of 78.

The outpourings of condolence on social media since his death (due to injuries sustained in a fall at the opera) indicate the high esteem in which he remained nationally. The comments are divided into two groups: a much-loved designer who made clothes that women wanted to wear; and a woman who supported the next generation, as well as those who worked for her.

Zampatti arrived as a migrant from northern Italy in Fremantle in 1950. She was proud of her immigrant status. He often spoke of the contribution of Italians to Australian life: their food, culture, business and hard work. He believed that Australia had strong vestiges of Italy.

She also talked about the opportunity Australia presented to someone like her, interested in designing fashionable clothes. The Australian fashion markets and also our broader cultural perspective were transforming into that immediate post-war when it arrived.

Post-war Australian fashion

Vogue magazine launched its first Australian supplement in 1959. The country was becoming increasingly outward-looking, informal and fashion-oriented.

Household spending on clothing, footwear, and curtains increased dramatically, tripling between 1946–7 and 1959–60. Social change was also underway: the number of married women working increased to 38.3% in 1961. It can be assumed that fewer of them had time to make their own clothes, and this created opportunities. for ready-to-wear lines that could also keep up. with the very rapid change of fashion after the war.

In 1968, with a higher share of women in the labor force (around 39%), household sewing was in decline and local manufacturing protected by high tariffs was in full swing. Many of the postwar manufacturers were migrants, including the large European Jewish population, which accelerated the introduction of casual separates, sportswear for men and women, finer knitwear, and shiny synthetic materials.

All of this reduced the women’s work required to maintain the clothes and keep them looking good. The mix and combination, modularity, and tighter clothing fitted the product standardization more than old tight clothing, such as dresses. The industry favored those who had knowledge of fashion and style and skilled owners-managers who understood both craft skills and production.

Birth of a fashion icon

Zampatti had these skills. He benefited and contributed to this cultural and structural change in Australian fashion, and then took it to the next level.

He opened his first wholesale business in Sydney in 1965. His work from the 1960s indicates a bold graphic touch, with a bohemian but smarter gesture. Zampatti began displaying his clothes in the window of the Surry Hills workshop, ignoring the wholesale and retail division. It opened its first store in 1972, at a time when manufacturers are also unlikely to be retailers. Eventually, he owned about 30 stores and later made exclusive arrangements with David Jones department stores.

Zampatti was very successful. In 1980 she was named Business Woman of the Year and went beyond fashion to industrial design, designing the Ford Laser car for women in 1985.

The appeal and legacy of Zampatti

Why was your clothes so successful?

Zampatti designed extremely wearable clothing for working women. In the 1980s they had metal zippers instead of demanding openings and invisible zippers on their pants to maintain a good line. He later designed practical jumpsuits that could be worn with a jacket. She also designed charming nightwear for weddings, red carpets and special occasions. He was aware of the process of maturity: “When you are young you agonize and try to please everyone. Not now ”.

Zampatti always stressed that fashion was first and foremost a business, not an artistic practice, although the business would not be successful if aesthetics were neglected. Local production was important to her and her lines continued to be manufactured in Australia. It was cosmopolitan, sophisticated and exterior. She was a woman of the world, but she also believed that Australians should not be expatriates in the age of airplanes and that they had much to contribute at home.

To this end, he funded a scholarship to Sydney University of Technology. The most talented students graduating in fashion and textiles with a strong business sense could study a master’s degree in London, Milan or New York, hoping to return to Australia and impart their new horizon of experience in the development of ‘a line of success.

Tina Arena (second from right) takes Carla Zampatti to the 2015 Aria Awards in 2015. With Lisa and Jessica Origliasso de les Veronicas (left) and Jessica Mauboy (far right).
Tina Arena (second from right) takes Carla Zampatti to the 2015 Aria Awards in 2015. With Lisa and Jessica Origliasso de les Veronicas (left) and Jessica Mauboy (far right). Photography: Graham Denholm / Getty Images

In an SBS interview with Janice Peterson (who often wore her clothes for television), she highlighted the impact of Italian art and church frescoes on her childhood. In fact, you can see the light, strong colors of Renaissance and Mannerist art translated into sharp tones and in search of Australian women.

Zampatti was a modernist. Tailoring for women was paramount in their daywear and women’s bodies were not obscured by elaborate patterns or trimmings. Women ranging from former Gov. Dame Quentin Bryce, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Jenny Morrison, Anna Bligh, Julie Bishop, Ita Buttrose, Susan Renouf, Princess Mary, Nigella Lawson and countless news presenters, journalists and stars wore their clothes.

The clothes made them look striking, but they wore the clothes and not the clothes.

Zampatti was a skilled businesswoman, a pioneering board member (first woman president of SBS, board member of Westfield Group; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney University of Technology, among others) and cultural benefactor ( Sydney Dance Company and other cultural and performance activities). groups).

She was primarily a proud and feminist fashion designer, promoting economic independence and agency for women. What he had achieved since the 1960s was remarkable.

Australia is the poorest without Zampatti and its pioneering fashion ethos.

  • Peter McNeil is a Distinguished Professor of Design History at Sydney University of Technology

  • This article was first published in The Conversation

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