Get us in your inbox


Zampatti Powerhouse

  • Art
  • Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo
  1. Zampatti Powerhouse installation image
    Photograph: Powerhouse/Zan Wimberley
  2. Zampatti Powerhouse installation image
    Photograph: Powerhouse/Zan Wimberley
  3. Zampatti Powerhouse installation image
    Photograph: Powerhouse/Zan Wimberley
  4. Zampatti Powerhouse installation image
    Photograph: Powerhouse/Zan Wimberley
  5. Bianca Spender and Carla Zampatti at Tiffany & Co store launch, 2004
    Photograph: Powerhouse/Robert Rosen | Bianca Spender and Carla Zampatti at Tiffany & Co store launch, 2004

Time Out says

Fashion icon Carla Zampatti is being honoured with an exclusive retrospective at the Powerhouse

Gather ‘round, fashion lovers. The Powerhouse museum in Ultimo has unveiled its major survey exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of the distinguished and oh-so-fashionable Sydneysider, Carla Zampatti (1938–2021).

If you’re not already a Zampatti admirer, you will leave this exhibition minted as a fan of the original “queen of the jumpsuit”. The first internationally exclusive retrospective of the much admired Italian-born designer presents the life and work of Zampatti – beloved as an Australian fashion icon, pioneering businesswoman and bad-ass working mother and grandmother. 

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 from the designer's clients, family, staff and friends. Zampatti began collaborating with the Powerhouse on this exhibition in 2019, and after her death in 2021, the project evolved into a loving tribute to an extraordinary woman. 

Carla Zampatti was an icon who Australian women connected with on a very emotional level

Open from November 24, 2022, Zampatti Powerhouse encompasses over five decades of material, surveying a trailblazing career from the establishment of her business in 1965 through to her most recent work. 

“What this exhibition is full of is all these emotional resonances, not only about Carla Zampatti herself, but the wearers,” says exhibition curator Roger Leong. “Carla Zampatti was an icon who Australian women connected with on a very emotional level, even if they’d never met her in her life.”

Over 1,000 garments were offered up after the Powerhouse put call-out to the public for this exhibition – as well as a fully-restored 1985 Ford Laser that Zampatti co-designed – and some of the 100 items that have ended up on display from 50 lenders are priceless family heirlooms. There’s the dress one woman saved up for after she landed her first job in the ’80s, the ’70s shift dress that a woman wore the night she met her husband at a Sydney pub (which still comes out of the cupboard every January), and garments that are now mementos of people who have passed away.

Iconic pieces worn by high-profile Australian women in defining life moments include former prime minister Julia Gillard’s orange 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; 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 Crown Princess Mary of Denmark for her official royal portrait in 2015; personal items worn by Zampatti; and two large bronze busts by Dame Elisabeth Frink from Zampatti’s home.

Carla Zampatti CEO Alexander Schuman said: “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.” 

To accompany the exhibition, the Powerhouse has released a publication including an archival collection of fashion shoots starring Zampatti’s granddaughter Brigid Schuman, and portraits of luminaries such as Dame Quentin Bryce and Ita Buttrose by Hugh Stewart.

The Powerhouse will also partner 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. 

An International Women’s Day Symposium (March 8, 2023) will celebrate female-led businesses and leaders with a day of talks exploring industry support for the next generation of fashion leaders. 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 (Ethnic Business Awards), Naomi Simson and Grace Lillian Lee.

On March 16, 2023, Powerhouse Late x Carla Zampatti will toast the cultural interests of the Italian-born designer featuring Italian-led tours of the exhibition, a lecture by UTS Italian Studies lecturer Dr Emma Barlow, music by DJ Bocconcini and a screening of Sydney Dance Company's film, Years.

Feeling lucky? To celebrate the opening of Zampatti Powerhouse, a national competition will offer two tickets to the VIP exhibition opening, travel and a hotel stay at the newly renovated InterContinental Sydney, a $5,000 Carla Zampatti voucher and a copy of the Zampatti publication. Entry is open to Australian residents from October 3-31, 2022.

Zampatti Powerhouse will be free to enter and tickets are not required. 

Want more? Check out the best exhibitions in Sydney this month.

Alannah Maher
Written by
Alannah Maher


Powerhouse Museum
500 Harris St

Dates and times

You may also like
You may also like

The best things in life are free.

Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

Loading animation
Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!