Carla Zampatti to receive $250,000 accolade from fashion festival

Catwalk collaboration … designer Carla Zampatti (left) and singer Dami Im in Sydney.Credit:James Brickwood

Designer Carla Zampatti is no stranger to receiving honours. In her 50-plus years in fashion, she has earned some of the country's highest accolades, including a Companion in the Order of Australia and a postage stamp featuring her image.

Still, one box has been left unticked – until now. In March, Zampatti, 76, will receive the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival's  (VAMFF's) highest honour, the Grand Showcase.

"I think I have been over-honoured," joked Zampatti, who this year also launched a scholarship for fashion graduates to study abroad. "I'm an [immigrant], I started with absolutely nothing, I've been busy and I'm still active. I always say, 'If I can do it, anyone can do it'."

Zampatti has promised more than 80 looks in the show, which will feature her 2019 autumn-winter collection in its entirety plus some special "show pieces" created just for the parade.

"It [the showcase] wasn't something I had planned or plotted, sometimes things are just meant to be," she said on Monday.

Zampatti said the collection, which is heavy on texture and animal print, was different to what people might expect from her but remained true to her aesthetic.

Meeting of minds … Dami Im (left) and Carla Zampatti.Credit:James Brickwood

"Each collection we are trying to be different … it has to enhance and yet push [the customer] to a new area. It's important for inspiration to happen in design."

Zampatti said that the "magic" of the festival was that it was open to the public.

"People should be able to identify themselves in what we show," she said. "[And then] it's good to add a little drama, a little frivolity, a little spectacle."

Next year's Grand Showcase will also have a heavy emphasis on live music, with a performance by pop artist and Australian Eurovision contestant Dami Im, who often wears Zampatti's designs when she performs.

"I can't wait to make something super creative, something unexpected and dramatic [for the show]," Im said.

VAMFF chief executive Graeme Lewsey said the runway show, which costs up to $250,000 to stage, was the greatest 'gift' the not-for-profit event could bestow on a designer.

"This year's theme is 'Power to the dreamers' … Carla is without a doubt the matriarch of our fashion industry, not just from her standing and achievements but also her ability to conceptualise and produce contemporary fashion that's globally on par," Mr Lewsey said. "Carla is unwavering in her ability to reach multiple generations."

Lewsey said when the shortlist of designers was being considered, "this year seemed natural [for Carla]".

"It will be Carla not as people expect – it will be Carla transcending and innovating."

Designers who have previously starred in the Grand Showcase include Ginger & Smart, Dion Lee, Camilla and Marc and Camilla.

Other highlights of this year's VAMFF program include shows featuring Martin Grant, whose clothes featured prominently during Meghan Duchess of Sussex's visit to Australia, and Akira Isogawa, whose 25-year career is currently being celebrated in a show at Sydney's Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.

There will also be the first Australian Fashion Summit, to be held on March 8, which is International Women's Day.

The Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival is on March 1-10, 2019.

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