“Significant in the lives of so many women”: Carla Zampatti retrospective crowdsourcing a legacy | Australian fashion

Museums don’t typically use crowdsourcing to put together their exhibits, but when it came to curating a Carla Zampatti show, Lisa Havilah knew this was the answer.

“When we started sourcing garments from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s there was a gap in Carla’s archives, so we decided to reach out to women across Australia to find work from their early collections,” says Havilah, Managing Director of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

Italian-born Carla Zampatti was a unique figure in Australian fashion. In a turbulent industry, the designer built an empire for more than half a century before her death in 2021. The Powerhouse exhibition will be the first major retrospective of her work anywhere in the world.

Carla Zampatti in 2018. Photo: Don Arnold/WireImage

More than 60 garments from the Zampatti archive and other collections will be on display, along with up to 40 garments and objects selected from public submissions.

“Carla’s pieces have been significant in the lives of so many women and have often been passed down from generation to generation. So we decided to invite people who loved and collected them to see their garments in the exhibition,” says Havilah.

Rare overalls and evening wear from the 1960s and 70s are among the items the powerhouse seeks, along with Zampatti-designed Ford Laser cars and “Carla” perfume, key rings and scarves.

“I’ve had so many women reach out to me on Instagram and message me directly to contribute,” says Powerhouse Trustee Kellie Hush, who was a close friend of the designer. “One woman in the southern highlands said she had a huge collection, another woman sent me a picture of her in her ’80s wedding dress and someone else got in touch with a bikini.”

People wishing to submit clothing items are asked to do so via email, including pictures and details of the pieces such as: B. Location, general condition and related personal stories.

“Our curator will grade the work, and if a piece is accepted, we’ll cover all shipping costs and treat it as the very valuable object that it is,” says Havilah.

“We’ll also be inviting people to include a story about what it means to them… and we hope to expand our own Carla Zampatti collection by acquiring a few pieces of clothing.”

Havilah began developing the show with Zampatti in 2019 after being appointed executive director of the Powerhouse.

“We started talking about what work was available from her own collection, but we also talked about telling her broader story in the community,” she says. “Carla cared so much about cultural diversity and the role of art in our lives, and she was an active philanthropist and businesswoman.”

Since the designer’s death, the powerhouse has worked closely with her family and fashion company on the show.

Personal, professional and public life are among the themes to be explored, with interviews featuring the designer, her clients, friends, family, co-workers and business partners featured throughout.

“Mom loved the magic of fashion, the big fashion shows and listening to her customers’ personal stories,” says her son and CEO of the Carla Zampatti brand, Alexander Schuman. “Their designs often played a small part in important moments in their lives.”

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