Review: A Classic Carla collection

Carla Zampatti is one of Australia’s best-known, most successful and globally recognised fashion designers, and for her Grand Showcase she showed a classic collection.

Over 30 years ago, Carla Zampatti introduced me to the idea that fashion could be a career. As a teenager I attended a talk she gave about how fashion wasn’t a frivolous pastime, but something that could become a job for life.

Obviously the designer practiced what she preached. Zampatti opened her first store in 1972; that’s almost 50 years ago. And she hasn’t stopped working to create the classic Australian woman’s wardrobe.

For her Grand Showcase affaire at VAMFF, Zampatti held her own on the runway – the only brand to have a stand-alone show – with a series of wearable, stylish and elegant looks that held little overt drama but a whole lot of ‘chic’.

A Classic Carla collection 8

Luckily for me I was seated next to the lovely, warm, friendly and funny Robyn Baillieu, wife of the former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu.

Chatting about her interest in fashion, especially how innovation is changing the industry, Baillieu said that she, and her two daughters both wore, and loved, pieces from the brand. And as Baillieu happily pointed out looks she loved and some that she already owned, it was clear that Carla Zampatti has developed into a label that suits a wide range of ages.

While the runway show was all about Zampatti as a designer, and the brand, it was also heartening to see so much inclusion on the runway. Globally there has been a lot of talk about the importance of including all races and creeds, and sizes.

While Zampatti featured stunning black models and Asian models, and included two hijabi looks, it would have been fabulous to see a few elegant mature women and women of different shapes on the runway too. Melbourne model Hanan Ibrahim (pictured below) was the first hijab model to walk the runway for Melbourne Fashion Week.

With a soundtrack provided by Eurovision songstress Dani Im supported by Nick Wales, Peter Simon Phillips and Jonny Seymour, the set of the Royal Exhibition Building resounded to a mix of contemporary soul and more instrumental sounds – the perfect accompaniment for the collection that was also a mix of classic and contemporary.

Opening with a series of classic Carla red looks, working through sky blue satin, a glittery houndstooth jacquard, leopard and zebra prints (with added bling), it was the tailoring, coats and jackets that showed why Australian women love the brand.

A stunning boxy double-breasted coat in boucle tweed stood out as one that would stand the test of time; as did a white wool suit with swinging fringe.

A Classic Carla collection 4 fringe

The houndstooth pieces, rather ironically considering the passing of Kaiser Karl, were reminiscent of classic Chanel – a comparison that can never be escaped when using that pattern in black and white. However Zampatti deftly added her own touch with a simple long skirt in once case, and a neat pair of capris in another.

A Classic Carla collection 6 houndstooth

There were a number of capes and capelets; the most successful being a beguiling caramel coat-dress in a lovely suede.

A Classic Carla collection 9 cape

Less successful were a series of graphic evening dresses – one with a mound of maribou, another not quite fitting the model correctly – as they seemed a little too ornate, especially when compared to other evening looks.

A Classic Carla collection 2 evening feathers

A classic ‘sexy’ mini encrusted in shining sequins and another evening gown that cleverly created a zebra stripe of shimmer seemed more streamlined and elegant.

A Classic Carla collection 5 sequins

Perhaps the most interesting and memorable look was a delicately pleated maxi dress with string-sized straps, a low vee neckline and perfect pleats front and back; the cut of the back was done to perfection as it sat proud from the shoulder.

This was a stunning example of quality tailoring, however it didn’t seem to entirely fit the rest of the more classic collection. Perhaps it is a new concept we will see more of in the future.

A Classic Carla collection 3 dress black

The show closed with a collection of black evening frocks that were again, more classic than cutting edge, not that this is a bad thing.

A Classic Carla collection 1 evening

Since the fashion industry currently appears to be having a crisis of conscience around the issues of sustainability and ethical fashion, it may be time to invest your money in pieces that will always look stylish, rather than just jump on a passing trend.

As the show ended, Zampatti received a standing ovation. Not many designers, even the big names in Paris, get that.

I attended VAMFF as part of its Writers Programme.


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