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A Tribute & Reflections on the Australian Fashion Industry

by Mira Mikosic April 11, 2021

A Tribute & Reflections on the Australian Fashion Industry

"It shows the power of clothing, that it can give you confidence. When you feel good in whatever you are wearing you can conquer the world." - Carla Zampatti

In the last week the Australian fashion industry and business leaders were taken by surprise with the unexpected passing of Carla Zampatti.  Our deepest sympathies go to Carla's children and extended family.  Thank you for sharing this incredible, iconic and elegant lady with Australian women and industry.

Carla's story is truly inspiring both as an Australian fashion designer and business pioneer.  For a woman to forge a career in the mid 1960s as an Italian immigrant, single mother and to have remained relevant has a fashion brand for over five decades, while contributing to the industry and various board roles -  is a woman who, without question, was a role model to many and deserves to be celebrated.

Carla was known to be a feminist fashion designer who promoted economic independence and action for women, tenets which are also at the heart of our own brand DNA.  The majority of her clothing was manufactured locally and accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia.  Our hope is that future generations of women's fashion designers will take her lead and consider producing their clothing locally in Australia.  In turn, giving employment opportunities to the skilled and talented local community of pattern makers and seamstresses.

Those who have worked with Carla over the years speak of her commitment and customer-centric ethos.  Carla's clothing designs were elegant, timeless, embraced women across the ages and importantly they were quality garments made to last and stand the test of time.  Contrary to so many fast fashion brands which are trend led and, it could be said, designed for obsolescence.  In Australia on average 27kgs of new textiles are purchased per person annually while during this same period another 23kgs per person are sent to landfill*.  At our current rate of consumption Australia is known to be the second largest consumer of new textiles after the United States **. 

Carla launched her first collection in 1965, just five years prior to when my own family immigrated from southern Europe to Australia and like many female immigrants at this time, my mother was a skilled and talented pattern maker and seamstress.  These cross-border transferrable skills gave women an opportunity to secure employment with local garment manufacturers in Australia so that they could contribute to their families and their own independence.   

Today, five decades forward, we find the same to be true.  Across cultures new female immigrants and refugees entering Australia, from less developed countries, are bringing with them these same cross-border transferrable skills.  Supporting this new generation of women and helping them assimilate into life and employment opportunities in Australia are inspiring social enterprises such as The Social Outfit in NSW and Mantua in QLD. 

So what has changed?  Over the last 20 years the fashion industry has undergone significant change.  Globalisation has had a tremendous impact on the Australian garment industry and the people and skill-sets it once employed and supported.  Triggers such as China joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001 as well as reductions in Australian tariffs from 25% in 2004 to 5% since 2015 have all contributed and led to large scale off-shoring of garment manufacturing and ultimately less local economic opportunities for Australian garment workers. 

Given the untenable trajectory of the global apparel industry and its well documented ethical, social and environmental impacts on people and our planet, the industry has reached a tipping-point.  Including, sadly to this day, a workforce which has been largely unchecked and continues to employ in some parts of the world slave labour from women and children.  A new model is urgently needed across the entire global supply chain.  Ideally, one which embraces the principles of a circular economy while importantly providing equitable economic opportunities and (at a minimum) a living wage for female garment workers who are known to represent 85% of the global apparel industry workforce.   

A Tribute & Reflection on my Eternally Loved Clothing from Carla Zampatti's Past Collections

To this day I still remember purchasing my first two pieces from Carla's past collections and how they made me feeling.  The fit was effortlessly comfortable, fabrics were all natural and beautifully tactile, they were distinctly simple yet elegant with unique feminine silhouettes and design elements - you just knew they were designed by a woman for women. 

Yes, they were financial investment pieces for my corporate wardrobe and career.  Eternally loved clothing pieces which I proudly wore spanning two decades and across two continents.  In terms of cost per wear, I enjoyed the highest return on their investment vs any other garment I have purchased in my wardrobe.   

It has been said that Carla's ethos was that women should be seen to be wearing the clothes - not the clothes wearing the woman.  I totally agree with this ethos.  Women's clothes should be made to enhance and bring-out the best in every woman's self-confidence and personal style rather than the clothing design (or Designer Label) being the hero of her story.  

Mira Mikosic wearing Carla Zampatti Clothing Designs

We often forget, or perhaps some people are just not aware, it takes so many earthly resources, human hands and lives, over a period of months and in some cases 1-2 years to make a single garment end-to-end.   No different to how we have embraced and renewed our connection with the food we eat and its provenance, it is time that we renew our connection with the earthly and human value of the garments we wear and their provenance.

They say that love and quality lie in the details of what we value.  As a tribute to Carla Zampatti in her role as an Australian Fashion Designer, I wanted to share my homage and love of the considered details that I so valued in the garments I owned from her past collections.  While aesthetics is important in fashion, ultimately it is the functional elements, quality of the fabric and making of a garment which ensures longevity. 

My 1st CZ Love ... A French Blue Jacket/Top & Skirt Twin Set in Wool Crepe Fabric (2nd Photo from the Left)

This timeless Jacket/Top had a slight A-Line cut from the waist to the thigh-line, double-breasted with gold military style buttons and my favourite part a unique square neckline.   I loved this jacket, I could wear it with a top and jeans for a smart casual look, wear it open with a top or closed with the matching straight-skirt for work. 

The skirt, like all of Carla's skirts and pants, that have gratefully bestowed my wardrobe had no waist band, just two feminine darts front and back with an invisible zipper.  I believe Carla understand that woman feel self-conscious about their waist-line and stomach area.  So why add (and waste) extra fabric bulk of a waist band like a man's trousers.  The French blue wool crepe fabric for both pieces was beautifully lined.

My 2nd CZ Love ... The perfect 3 Piece Set: Sheath Dress, Long Jacket & Pants in Black Wool Crepe (Photo on Left)

I so loved this black sheath dress with short sleeves and a jewel neckline, it was the perfect essential corporate piece, with the matching jacket or paired in summer with a scarf to add a touch of colour.

The jacket's mid-thigh length sat perfectly for my height.  With a long zipper at the front, feminine floppy lapels (which reminded me of flower petals which moved as I walked).  The jacket had an A-Line cut from the waist to the mid-thigh beautifully following a women's natural curves and silhouette.  The jacket was a stunning pairing with the sheath dress or matching pants - it was the finishing touch.

The matching pants in their natural wool crepe were lined and draped beautifully.  Once again, like Carla's skirts the pants had no waist band just feminine darts and an invisible zipper giving a seamless line.  The pants tapered beautiful to the ankles and had a small slit on either side of the outer leg.

My 3rd CZ Love ... Classic Black & White Pinstriped Jacket and Skirt with a rich Fuchsia lining (Far right Photos)

The front of jacket, while having smaller feminine lapels, had an asymmetric cut which gave it length and the illusion of more height to the wearer.  Each sleeve at the wrist had a small slit which provide a little glimpse of the jackets rich Fuchsia lining.  Although the jacket had two front buttons these were concealed in the inside of the jacket, giving the jacket a seamless look from the front when buttoned-up.

I loved this cheeky feminine alternative to a straight skirt with its two layered small ruffles at the base of the skirt length.  A beautiful skirt with its ever so subtle feminine movement when one walked.  

Vale Carla ... You have left the world a fashion design legacy and a community of women you inspired and uplifted their self-confidence to pursue their passions.  

Mira x

- Founder, Simple Chic Women


Sources:  * YouGov Report - Average textiles purchased and sent to landfill by Australian consumers per year - ABS.  ** University of Queensland.  *** TCF International

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