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Carla Zampatti honoured as 'a champion of multicultural Australia'

Australian fashion designer Carla Zampatti is photographed at her city studio in Sydney in June 2009, ahead of receiving a Companion of the Order of Australia. Source: AAP

Carla Zampatti is being remembered as one of Australia's greatest multicultural success stories.

The legendary Australian fashion designer and former SBS Chair has died at the age of 78.




  • A champion of multicultural Australia, Carla Zampatti never forgot her Italian roots, even as she continued to trailblaze a path in the fashion industry.
  • Her designs have been worn by some of Australia's most influential women.
  • The fashion icon passed away on Saturday (2 April) after enduring a serious fall.


Her designs have been worn by some of Australia's most influential women, including Princess Mary of Denmark, Australia's first female prime minister Julia Gillard, Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman.

The fashion icon died on Saturday [2 April] in a Sydney hospital, after a serious fall at an outdoor opera event .

The former Chair of SBS told SBS News in 2016, she - like many Italian migrants - forged a very strong connection with Australia.

"The family, the attitude, it is kind of very... You feel there is an Italian element in Australia. So they have had a big influence. And they're hardworking. It's a beautiful country. And it never ceases to amaze me how enterprising Italians are. Even during the GFC, businesses just dropped their prices, just got on with their work. And managed to survive."

Born in Italy in 1942, Ms  Zampatti migrated to Australia in 1950 as a child, later setting up her fashion label at the age of 24.

She brought a sense of Italian flare to her elegant designs, which were influenced by her childhood, growing up in the mountainous Lombardy region of Italy.

And her signature style was appreciated by politicians, actors and princesses alike, according to Stellar Magazine Editor Sarrah Le Marquand.

"Her designs were worn from anyone from Nicole Kidman, Princess Mary, Cate Blanchett, to our first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard; the Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, [former foreign minister] Julie Bishop . So her status within the fashion industry, my industry -- the publishing industry was profound. But I think what is unique about Carla Zampatti was that her connection with the so-called everyday Australian woman was no less profound."

Tributes for Ms Zampatti have come from all walks of Australian life.

In a statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Australia has lost "a truly great and inspirational Australian" who was "a pioneer as an entrepreneur, and a champion of multicultural Australia".

A-B-C Chairperson, former founding editor of Cleo magazine and a friend of Ms Zampatti, Ita Buttrose says the Carla Zampatti brand has become a mainstay in the wardrobes of many Australians.

"She was a very classical designer. And she used to say that her designs always stood the test of time. So you could buy something a few years back and you could still be wearing it a few years forward. And I think that is why she had such a wide appeal. I mean when you think about it. I know she dressed Princess Mary of Denmark and I know that (British actress) Joan Collins popped into her boutique in Sydney and she was a pioneer. We first discovered. We - Cleo magazine - first discovered her in 1972 when she opened her first boutique here in Sydney. And then she opened others. And she finally cracked Myer and David Jones. She was also at one point Chair of SBS. And we sometimes used to discuss challenges of looking after national broadcasters. It was one of the other things we had in common."

A champion of cultural diversity, SBS management paid tribute to Ms Zampatti as an "extraordinary leader" who brought "great energy, and resilience" in her 10 years as chair of SBS from 1999 to 2009.

The Australian Multicultural Foundation has hailed  Ms Zampatti as a mutlicultural success story who advocated for and was committed to supporting young people in reaching their goals.

Rachele Grassi C-E-O of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, says Ms Zampatti always supported the Italian community when they needed it most -- and often mentored people.

"The sophistication that comes out of Italy was highly represented here in Australia. Her connection with Italy in general, and to all Italians here in Australia, was really really strong. She was always present, whether its a community event or a business event, she would find a way to be there to support. And for us it's a very sad loss. We just met her recently and we were planning together to promote Italian fashion and the collaboration with Australian designers, which of course she would represent at the highest level."

Ms Zampatti's fashion house says she was committed to "making Australian women feel confident and elegant through her exceptional design, tailoring and understanding of the modern woman".