Carla Zampatti loves a fast car – but the Italian-Australian fashion designer also enjoys doing meditative laps of the pool. Interviewd by Jessica Irvine. 

What is your greatest strength?

I know that every problem has a solution. When tough situations arise, I remove all emotional aspects, look at what’s wrong and create a new tactic to solve the situation. You have to be determined to create success.


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And your greatest weakness?

This business can be exhausting at times and my weakness could be completing a task regardless of how tired I am.

What scares you?

It is usually the start of a new collection. In the fashion business, every six months you are designing and creating a new collection at the same time that the last one is going to store. You’re still waiting to see if the past collection is a success while moving on to the next one. It can overwhelm.

What virtues do you most admire in people?

Honesty, clarity of mind, determination and resilience.

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?

I love a sports car. When I was asked by Ford to design their [special-edition] Laser in 1984, I knew exactly what to do to make it look sleeker and sportier. I think I surprised Ford by knowing so much about a car.

What is your most treasured possession?

My children – they are each so different and are succeeding in their chosen fields of work. Both my daughters work in fashion, which I never encouraged. It has been their choice.

What’s your idea of absolute happiness?

Holidaying in Italy – I don’t mind if it’s the quiet of the country or the fast pace of a city. I love the food, the way of life, the love of fashion. I always leave Italy feeling happy.

If you could have dinner with two famous people, who would you choose?

Coco Chanel and Angela Merkel – both extraordinary women with original minds.

What travel experience is on your bucket list?

Cuba. I want to see it before too much change happens.

How do you switch off?

Swimming. I’ve always enjoyed starting the day doing laps. It’s meditative, you have to breathe consistently and it makes you calm.

If you could turn back time, what would you change in your life?

I would not change a thing. We do not have the luxury of a second chance so make the most of every decision.

What is your greatest achievement?

Building a successful fashion brand that has lasted 50 years. And being the first female chair of SBS. I loved that role and it lasted 10 years. As an Italian who made Australia home, I am very proud of the multicultural drive of this national broadcaster.

Who do you admire?

Rafael Bonachela, artistic director of Sydney Dance Company. I love his passion for dance, the way he extracts the best out of his dancers – and he gives a great speech.

What’s the most Australian thing about you?

Not taking “no” for an answer when I know something can be done.  

And the most Italian thing about you?

My passion. Italians are passionate about the way they live their life.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

A cat. They are independent and unafraid, give beautiful love, have fun and sleep in the sun so peacefully.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a champion for women in business, whether it’s dressing them or by being an example of what can be achieved. 

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