Carla Zampatti: major retrospective exhibition at the Powerhouse

Carla Zampatti: major retrospective exhibition at the Powerhouse

Powerhouse has revealed details of Zampatti Powerhouse, the major survey exhibition which will celebrate the life and legacy of the iconic Australian, Carla Zampatti, opening 24 November 2022.

Carla Zampatti in her Surry Hills Boutique, 1975, Photo courtesy of Nine Media / Greg Lee

The first internationally exclusive retrospective of Carla Zampatti AC, OMRI (1938–2021) will present the life and work of the inimitable Italian-born designer, beloved as an Australian fashion icon. The breadth of her extraordinary private, professional and public life will be rendered in exquisite detail, anchored by Zampatti’s signature designs and brought to life with first person reflections on the designer’s clients, family, staff and friends.

Zampatti Powerhouse will encompass 100 designs from over 50 lenders and over five decades of material, surveying a trailblazing career from the establishment of her business in 1965 to her most recent work.

Iconic pieces worn by high-profile Australian women in defining life moments include former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s jacket worn when she addressed US Congress in 2011; the white jacket worn by Christine Holgate when speaking at the Australia Post Inquiry in April 2021; the red pantsuit worn by Linda Burney for her official parliamentary portrait in 2019; Tina Arena’s jumpsuit, personally fitted for her ARIA Hall of Fame induction in 2015; and Allegra Spender’s blue jacket which belonged to her mother, frequently worn while campaigning for the federal seat of Wentworth.

Carla Zampatti corset dress and shirt, c. 1990, Photo courtesy of Carla Zampatti archives
Copyright granted

Other highlights include the gown worn by HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark for her official royal portrait in 2015; personal items worn by Zampatti; a 1985 Ford Laser she co-designed; and two large bronze busts by Dame Elisabeth Frink.

Following a public call-out, the exhibition will also present around 30 loaned garments from Zampatti’s rarely seen early design work from the 60s and 70s, alongside the stories of the Australian women who wore them.

‘The NSW Government is proud to support the first retrospective of Australian fashion icon Carla Zampatti at the home of Australian fashion, Powerhouse Ultimo. This showstopping exhibition will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of NSW’s cultural calendar,’ said Minister for the Arts Ben Franklin.

Carla Zampatti day dress c. 1975, Photo courtesy of Carla Zampatti archives
Copyright granted.

‘It is an incredible honour for Mum’s design legacy to be showcased in a major exhibition at Powerhouse Ultimo. Mum loved the magic of fashion, the big runway shows as well as hearing her customers’ personal stories and how her designs often played a small part in moments of significance in the lives of many Australian women,’ said Carla Zampatti CEO Alexander Schuman.

‘Zampatti Powerhouse will showcase the oeuvre of an Australian icon at the forefront of Australia’s fashion industry, from designing a car with Ford to the uniform for Australia Post. I’m so excited to see the beautiful, rare Carla designs found in private wardrobes and hearing the associated stories,’ said Powerhouse Trustee Kellie Hush.

‘As a trailblazing leader for women in business, Carla was passionate about creating looks which made women feel confident in the defining moments in their lives, evidenced by the overwhelming response we received to our public call-out. Zampatti Powerhouse celebrates the designer’s affinity with Australian women and her indelible legacy,’ said Powerhouse Chief Executive Lisa Havilah.

‘Titania’ jumpsuit worn by Tina Arena for her induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame, 2015, Lent by Tina Arena AM,
Photographed by Marinco Kojdanovski

To accompany the exhibition, Powerhouse will release a publication including an archival collection fashion shoot starring Zampatti’s granddaughter Brigid Schuman, and portraits of luminaries such as Dame Quentin Bryce and Ita Buttrose by Hugh Stewart.

Powerhouse will partner with cultural institutions and foundations supported by Zampatti to present live performances, late-night programs and panel discussions celebrating her expansive legacy not only as a fashion designer but also a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, patron of the arts and mentor:

Ruby jacket worn by Julia Gillard to address US Congress, 10 March 2011, Lent by the Hon Julia Gillard AC, Photographed by Marinco Kojdanovski

    For International Women’s Day on 8 March 2023, Powerhouse will celebrate female-led businesses and leaders with a day of talks exploring industry support for the next generation of fashion leaders. Key events include a Women in Leadership panel discussion hosted by Chief Executive Women and featuring Kathryn Fink (SBS), Allegra Spender MP and Janice Petersen (SBS); and a business-pitching session for young entrepreneurs judged by Eve Crestani (Ethnic Business Awards), Naomi Simson and Grace Lillian Lee.

    On 16 March 2023 Powerhouse Late will toast the cultural interests of the Italian-born designer featuring Italian-led tours of the exhibition, a lecture by UTS Italian Studies lecturer Dr Emma Barlow, music by DJ Bocconcini and a screening of Sydney Dance Company’s film, Years.
    Dancers from Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year Program will realise a new work responding to Carla Zampatti’s legacy performed in the exhibition with musical accompaniment from Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. More details to be announced soon.

To celebrate the opening of Zampatti Powerhouse, a national competition will offer two tickets to the VIP exhibition opening, travel and a hotel stay at the newly renovated InterContinental Sydney, a $5,000 Carla Zampatti voucher and a copy of the Zampatti publication. Entry is open to Australian residents from 3 October – 31 October 2022.

Carla Zampatti and model with Zampatti Ford Laser, Russell McPhedran – The Sydney Morning Herald , 15th Feb 1985
Copyright granted.