Carla Zampatti had been “leaning in” for almost 50 years before the term of corporate female empowerment was coined by Sheryl Sandberg.
It’s a concept that has heavily influenced the fashion designer’s latest collection for spring-summer 2017, which she debuted at the Sydney Theatre Company on Thursday.
The showcase – the first fashion event ever shown in Wharf 1 – could have been confused for a stage adaptation of the cult ’80s film, Working Girl. Shoulder pads, dresses with large bow sashes, shiny silks and a strong palette of blues, gunmetal grey, silver and jet black stormed the stage. The only thing missing was Melanie Griffiths’ perm and sneakers with pantyhose ensemble.
Zampatti felt the timing was right for a throwback given the global climate regarding feminism and women’s rights.
“Women started wearing shoulder pads then, they loved a wide shoulder and they still do. It shows a level of confidence and power. That’s what I remember from the ’80s,” she told Fairfax Media.
When she’s not busy running her eponymous fashion empire, Zampatti is a prominent member of the business community, serving on corporate boards across a variety of industries including the arts and media. Her connection with the STC also stemmed from her business dealings as she served on the board for 16 years. It is a place she remembers fondly for her first interactions with Cate Blanchett and director Andrew Upton.
Over the years she said her “curiosity and want to broaden her horizons beyond fashion design” inspired her to sit on the boards of the Art Gallery of NSW, the Sydney Dance Company and, after meeting Frank Lowy through her time with the AGNSW, Westfield.
Off the runway she encourages more women to incorporate “big shoulders” into their wardrobes and take up more professional challenges.
“Take on more responsibility in your workplace,” she said. “Even if you don’t think you have the capability you will grow into that specific job. Women shouldn’t be afraid, accept a challenge. That’s what I have seen when I’ve promoted women in my teams, they all flourish when given the opportunity.”