Vale Carla Zampatti

Trailblazing fashion designer recognised with Honorary Doctorate of Letters from UOW in 2018

Vale Carla Zampatti

Renowned fashion designer and entrepreneur Carla Zampatti passed away over the weekend (Saturday 3 April) in Sydney after suffering a fall late last month.

Ms Zampatti, one of Australian’s most well-known and influential designers, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters (Honoris Causa) from the University of Wollongong (UOW) in December 2018, in recognition of her creative legacy, her immense contributions to multiculturalism, women in business, and the fashion industry as a whole.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE expressed his condolences on behalf of the UOW community to Ms Zampatti’s family for their sudden loss.

“Carla was an incredibly talented designer and also a warm, kind, passionate person. Her legacy is unparalleled, as was her drive and tenacity,” Professor Wellings said.

“We were thrilled and honoured to welcome Carla to the UOW community when she accepted an Honorary Doctorate of Letters. She inspired students to follow their dreams and inspired women to become leaders in their fields. She also made a massive contribution to Australia’s multicultural society.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and her friends.”

When Ms Zampatti began her career in the fashion industry, she was one of only a handful of designers in Australia. She had great dreams, a desire to work hard, and an instinct for knowing what women wanted to wear.

It was the late 1960s. The country was on the cusp of change, the feminist movement was in full swing, and women were questioning their role in the home and in the workplace. The budding fashion designer began to make her mark.

Five decades later, she remained at the top of her game, an astute businesswoman and impeccable designer who was able to adapt to a changing world and to changing sensibilities.

Born in Lovero, Italy, in 1942, Ms Zampatti was destined for a career in fashion. From her early days in Italy, she was drawn to fashion magazines and illustrations. After relocating to Western Australia with her family as a young girl, her dreams were not dimmed, and she was determined to bring her Italian style to her new home.

By the early ’70s she had moved to Sydney where she began working for a small fashion house. Ms Zampatti watched as her designs swiftly became the company’s best sellers. It was not long before she decided to go it alone and control her own destiny, and with the help of a $5000 loan from a beloved uncle, Carla Zampatti Pty Ltd was launched.

Former Chancellor Jillian Broadbent with Carla Zampatti and UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings. Photo: Alex Pike

Former UOW Chancellor Jillian Broadbent with Carla Zampatti and UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings at the graduation ceremony in December 2018.

In 2018, Ms Zampatti said being a migrant had greatly influenced her approach to work.

“I had to treat it like a business from the start, because I didn’t have much money and I knew if I ran out I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do. I worked incredibly hard,” she said.

“I was Italian, a migrant, and I had to nothing to lose. I think that drive is in most migrants. They come to a new country, they want to build something and have success, so they know they have to work hard.”

In addition to being a designer, Ms Zampatti was also active in the business world. For 10 years, she held the position as Chairperson of SBS Corporation, and was also on the boards of McDonalds and Westfield. She was on the board of the Australian Multicultural Foundation for 12 years.

Despite being in and around fashion for so long, she is still delighted to see women wearing her designs, on red carpets, in the workplace, and on the street.

“I think my success has come from experience, from being a young woman wanting a career and making my own clothes because I couldn’t find anything that I liked. I know what women need, what’s appropriate to wear in a business situation or when going out at night.

“The highlight is dressing women like Nigella Lawson, [author] Jackie Collins, Senator Michaelia Cash, and Princess Mary. And I still get a thrill when I get an email from a client saying that she met her husband, she landed a job, she received an award on stage, while wearing my garments. It’s amazing how many of those emails I do receive.”

Ms Zampatti is survived by her three children and nine grandchildren.

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