Zampatti Powerhouse

Zampatti-PowerhouseSydney’s Powerhouse Museum has unveiled Zampatti Powerhouse, a major survey exhibition which celebrates the life and legacy of the iconic Australian Carla Zampatti.

The first internationally exclusive retrospective of Carla Zampatti AC, OMRI (1938–2021) presents 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 is rendered in exquisite detail, anchored by Zampatti’s signature designs and brought to life with first person reflections by the designer’s clients, family, staff and friends.

Zampatti Powerhouse encompasses 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.

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 also presents around 40 loaned garments from Zampatti’s rarely seen early design work from the 60s to the 90s, 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 is undoubtedly one of the highlights of NSW’s cultural calendar,” said Minister for the Arts Ben Franklin.

“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 showcases 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. It is so exciting to see the beautiful, rare Carla designs found in private wardrobes and hear 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.

To accompany the exhibition, Powerhouse has released a publication, Zampatti, which includes 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 is partnering 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:

Italian Language Tours of Zampatti Powerhouse:
In partnership with Italian language school Co.As.It, specialised Italian language tours of Zampatti Powerhouse will take place on 3 and 11 December 2022.

International Women’s Day Symposium: 
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. 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, Grace Lillian Lee and Vanessa Stoykov.

Powerhouse Late X Carla Zampatti:
On 16 March 2023, Powerhouse Late will toast the cultural interests of the Italian-born designer featuring Italian-led tours of the exhibition, music by DJ Bocconcini and a screening of Sydney Dance Company’s film, Years.

Sydney Dance Company and Australian Brandenburg Orchestra: 
On 4 & 5 May 2023, dancers from Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year Program will perform a new work responding to Carla Zampatti’s legacy in the exhibition with musical accompaniment from Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Zampatti Powerhouse
Powerhouse Ultimo, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo
Exhibition continues to Sunday 11 June 2023
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Zampatti Powerhouse – courtesy of Powerhouse Museum