The May edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly, which is out April 22nd, features the final interview and photoshoot with Australian fashion icon and trailblazer Carla Zampatti.
The Weekly’s editor-at-large Juliet Rieden was sitting two seats along from Zampatti at the opening night of Opera Australia’s La Traviata on Sydney Harbour and the last words the iconic designer said to her were “I can’t wait to see our story in the magazine this month.”
Tragically, she would never get to see that story and the beautiful family images that accompanied it.
Nicole Byers, editor-in-chief of The Australian Women’s Weekly said: “As a strong trailblazing woman, Carla truly epitomises The Australian Women’s Weekly spirit. We are proud to be able to run this fitting tribute to a woman who blazed a path not only for her own children and grandchildren but for women and girls everywhere.”
The story was always scheduled to run in the May issue of The Weekly, timed to come out a few weeks before what would have been Zampatti’s 79th birthday. But little could anyone have known then that it would be the last major interview and photo shoot with one of Australia’s most inspirational trailblazers, a proud feminist who paved the way for women and girls to follow their dreams.
Conducted at Zampatti’s sweeping Sydney home, daughters Bianca and Allegra and her eldest granddaughter Brigid shared halcyon memories from their childhood and paid tribute to their mum and nonna, a role model to each in varying ways.
In the shoot, Zampatti was photographed with her daughters and five of her grandchildren. She talked candidly about her own childhood in Italy, migrating to Australia, her two marriages and shared her feelings about an ongoing romance with a special partner that had started more than two years ago.
She also shared her love of being a mother, telling The Weekly, “I was in awe of going into hospital and seeing a human being come out of you. It’s an experience I would love every woman to have.”
Although it wasn’t all plain sailing – particularly in the early years as a single mother. Following her first divorce from businessman Leo Schuman, who she wed at just 22, she made the practical choice of employing a nanny. “People would say, ‘How can you do this to your child, leaving him with other people’?”
She was a loving mother, but also a strict one. “She wanted us to take responsibility from a young age,” said daughter Allegra. “We had to have rosters for making food.”
“They were serving tea and running messages and filing from the age of seven or eight, simply because I couldn’t’ take them on holidays and the nanny used to get sick of them at home, so I’d take them to the office,” recalled Zampatti.
“They learned a lot.”
As well as looking back, She was excited about what lay ahead for her fashion business, refusing to even consider the idea of retiring because she had too much yet to do.
“My customers keep saying, ‘You can’t retire!’ And anyway, I love it!” she told The Weekly.
This passion for work was on full display in the custom-made gown she designed for The Weekly’s 2020 Christmas cover, captured in a candid pic of Zampatti fastidiously hand-pinning the hem of the gown. She was determined to get the look just right.
It is fitting that it’s The Weekly in which Zampatti’s last interview appears, given the special and long-running association she had with the magazine. She also created a bespoke pale pink gown for Crown Princess Mary to wear on a shoot at her Copenhagen palace for The Weekly’s 80th birthday issue. Crown Princess Mary was so enamoured with the look she was seen wearing it on several subsequent occasions, including for an official portrait in 2015.
When Dame Joan Collins spontaneously insisted The Weekly’s Style Director Mattie Cronan take her shopping in Sydney after a 2016 photo shoot, they went straight to Zampatti’s Double Bay boutique, where Dame Collins picked up many treasured pieces.
On another occasion Zampatti generously allowed The Weekly to shoot Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, at her Woollahra home. A fan of Zampatti’s designs, the Duchess has worn several of her pieces over the years.
The full article appears in The Australian Women’s Weekly May issue on sale from Thursday 22 April.
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