10 minutes with legendary Australian fashion designer Carla Zampatti

Carla Zampatti

Carla Zampatti is the latest big name to team up with Specsavers for a high fashion eyewear collaboration.

In New Zealand to launch the range, the ever-glamorous (and always sunglass-clad) Zampatti sat down with FQ to discuss the inspiration behind her designs and how, 50 years on, she has had one of the most enduring careers of any fashion designer, whether that be in Australia or beyond.

First of all, congratulations on your new collection. Can you tell us how this collaboration came about and what made you want to work with the Specsavers brand?
Two years ago they came to me and I’d thought about it… But at that time, they were talking more about spectacles than sunglasses and I said really if we’re going to work together I would need quite a lot of sunglasses in the range – because I wear sunglasses all the time – and they eventually agreed, which is wonderful. That’s why I partnered with Specsavers, so I had more to wear! So we sat down, I looked at every spectacle I had in my archive collection, and then we came up with ideas of modern versions of these plus other modern shapes. They went away and made them and they came back and I was so excited – they were beautiful, the quality was wonderful, the shape was very flattering on the face and they were versatile. It’s been a very happy collaboration.

This is not your first eyewear collection though is it, as you collaborated with Polaroid on a range back in 1983. What is different – if anything – about designing an eyewear collection in 2017 versus the collection you designed in ‘83?
1983 was a fun one! And I must say I still have photographs of it and it was really fun and “out there”. More “out there” than now! It was a really meaningful collection, and anything I did in between then and now hasn’t been so meaningful. So the 1983 collection was fun and different and very interesting and then this new collection is absolutely riveting, I just love it. I’ve been wearing it every day and what is magical is having different glasses to suit all these different outfits or moods.

You’ve been in the fashion industry now for over 50 years. What have been the biggest changes you’ve witnessed?
The size [of the industry] and the fact that fashion designers are now regarded as “celebrities”. Back in the 60s, we were certainly not celebs. And in Australia, fashion wasn’t really the major industry [it is today], it wasn’t really talked about it and wasn’t really ever on the front page. Whereas now it has become something else – our last fashion show for spring ended up on the front page of every paper, including the Financial Review. So it means that fashion is everyone’s life, it’s in everyone’s focus and it’s changed enormously.

Also, customers today are very discerning simply because they have a lot to choose from and experiment with. They are now learning quite early on in their life what they like, what suits them and what their style is – that’s very important. Women are also very busy and need items to get them through the day that will give them the confidence to chair a board meeting, chair a company, or whatever else they’re doing. Women are very time poor and involved in all kinds of areas these days, and therefore we need reliable, dependable, appropriate – but also fashionable – clothing and accessories that we feel good in. And then we can forget about what we’re wearing and just get on with what we’re doing.


Can you tell us some of the main inspirations behind the new eyewear designs? What are some of the key eyewear trends we’ll be seeing come through?
I think the aviator shape is the main inspiration but also the big glamourous sunglasses have always been very important [to me]. Gold trimming on black, the different finishes. There’s a wonderful pair of cat eyes which comes in a matte material – today’s materials in sunglasses are wonderful. There’s a marvellous pair of tortoiseshell that is perfect for casual wear. A very mysterious black and gold aviator which is very dramatic and glamorous. There is a pair of specs or sunglasses for every occasion.

If you were to pick a muse who embodies the collection, who would that be and why?
I selected Marta Dusseldorp [to front this campaign], simply because she’s a very ‘today’ woman. She’s a very important actress on television, film and stage – when you watch something she’s in you forget you’re watching somebody acting out a story, you’re just involved. She’s very pro-women, she’s very pro-The Modern Woman. She’s fabulous and beautiful but she’s unconsciously beautiful, if you know what I mean? She’s highly intelligent and I very much admire her.


 Award-winning actress Marta Dusseldorp is the embodiment of the beautiful, vibrant, women Carla designs for.

What are your favourite styles in the collection and who or what is the muse or story behind them?
The aviator style, which is based on a pair I started wearing in about 1967. I saw someone wearing these very see-through aviator sunglasses back then and I thought: “Wow, he looks so glamorous”. Then I got to know him and he told me where they came from and I went and bought myself a pair! They were Cartier gold frames and I wore them for a very long time. So that is one inspiration. I also like the smaller aviators and the glamorous movie-star Jackie Kennedy style of glasses.


Sunglasses are a glamorous trademark of yours. From your perspective, what is the power of a pair of frames?
I’m not sure that there’s power, but there’s certainly convenience! For instance, my gardener arrived very early so I popped my sunglasses on because I was looking fairly “underdone”. And he says “you look fantastic Carla, what’s changed?” and I just thought, “you don’t see it do you? It’s glasses!” [laughs] So you can hide behind glasses, which I think is very magical.

You are renowned for your impeccable glamour. How can a woman incorporate a touch of glamour into their everyday life?
Think about what you’re going to wear and where you’re going to go. Put something on that you love, that you know you look good in. And even if you had it on yesterday and the day before, it doesn’t matter. As long as you love it and you look good in it, you’ll have a good day.

You have had one of the most successful and enduring careers of any Australian fashion designer. What one piece of advice would give to someone starting out in their career?
I think you have to be creative and you have to come up with ideas – but you can’t just come up with one idea, with fashion it is many ideas and you also have to love change. You also have to understand that it’s a business, and as with any business if you don’t run a profit you’re going to run out of money and you’re not going to be able to keep doing the beautiful things you’re doing.

  • The range of 14 optical and eight prescription sunglasses are priced from $299 for two pairs of single vision and available now in Specsavers stores nationally and online at