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First Look: Zampatti Powerhouse

Woman in striped Carla Zampatti suit reclining against red carNovember 23, 2022

Zampatti Powerhouse. Image supplied by Powerhouse


Powerhouse today unveiled Zampatti Powerhouse, the major survey exhibition which celebrates the life and legacy of the iconic Australian Carla Zampatti opening 24 November 2022.

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:

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.

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.

On May 4 and 5 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.


@powerhouse #PowerhouseZampatti

Zampatti Powerhouse is proudly supported by the NSW Government through the Blockbuster Funding Initiative.

Zampatti Powerhouse
Powerhouse Ultimo
24 November 2022 – 11 June 2023
Free, no registration required

Creative Team
Exhibition Curator: Roger Leong
Creative Director: Tony Assness
Fashion Stylist: Peter Simon Phillips
Creative Hair Director: Alan White
Accessories Designer: Phoebe Hyles
Composition and Sound Design: Nick Wales, Johnny Seymour and Paul Mac
Exhibition Film Director: Jasmin Tarasin

Sasha Haughan | | 0405 006 035
Siân Davies | siâ | 0402 728 462
Kym Elphinstone | | 0421 106 139

About Powerhouse
Powerhouse sits at the intersection of arts, design, science and technology and plays a critical role in engaging communities with contemporary ideas and issues. We are undertaking a landmark $1.4 billion infrastructure renewal program, spearheaded by the creation of the flagship museum, Powerhouse Parramatta; expanded research and public facilities at Powerhouse Castle Hill; the renewal of the iconic Powerhouse Ultimo; and the ongoing operation of Sydney Observatory. The museum is custodian to over half a million objects of national and international significance and is considered one of the finest and most diverse collections in Australia. We are also undertaking an expansive digitisation project that will provide new levels of access to Powerhouse collections.