Book Review | Carla Zampatti: MY LIFE, MY LOOK

I wore a Carla Zampatti outfit to my wedding, a black silk shirt and long, bright orange taffeta, A-line skirt. I still have that timeless outfit today. It lasted longer than my marriage and says a lot to me about the designer’s capacity for longevity.

Surviving 50 years as a fashion brand in Australia is almost unheard of, yet it’s a feat that Carla Zampatti managed from 1965 to today. To mark the milestone, Zampatti has written her autobiography beginning with her early childhood days in Lovero, Italy where she was born in 1942.

With her mother and two brothers, nine year old Carla Zampatti arrived in Bullfinch, Western Australia in 1950 unable to speak English. She had not met her father until then since her mother was still pregnant when Domenico Zampatti left Italy during the war to make a better life for his family in the outback mining town. We can only assume the early influence of a strong matriarch must have given the young Carla the role model that would cement her feminist viewpoint, can-do attitude, and strong work ethic.

Undoubtedly, Zampatti has an unerring positive attitude. This book is full of inspiring stories of her successful achievements from opening her own store in Sydney in 1972 as a single mother, to receiving the AC and AM Orders of Australia.

While this attitude is admirable, Zampatti appears to gloss over some of what must have been devastating events, such as her parents not attending her wedding to second husband John Spender because they did not get married in a Catholic church. She conveys much of the devastation felt when her first husband Leo cheated on her with her an in-house model, and their subsequent divorce. However, most other negative events in the book are tempered with stories of successful outcomes, even when John Spender left her. It appears Zampatti was hardened emotionally by her experience with Leo and tempestuous relationship with her father.

Zampatti’s world is clearly based in the privileged, wealthy, right wing Sydney elite, and while some of her choices such as sitting on the board of a tobacco company are questionable, her championing of feminism and multiculturalism are genuine.

This is an inspiring read for anyone, women in particular, trying to crack into the fashion world in Australia.

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