Saturday, August 30, 2008

Carla Zampatti: "I'm not a global brand - but I have global customers"

Coupla interviews that I did after Wednesday night's Myer show. First up, Oz fashion industry veteran Carla Zampatti, upon whom the Australian Fashion Laureate was bestowed a fortnight ago. With the laureate's eligibility criteria dictating that a candidate “must have global reach”, I asked at the time: has Zampatti ever exported and do her fashion endeavours have anything remotely approaching a global reach? Here’s Zampatti’s answer.

Congratulations on your award.
Carla Zampatti: My Laureate.

Yes - your Laureate.
Well it was totally unexpected.

But you were nominated last year as well weren’t you?
I was nominated yes, But to win….I mean there is some wonderful talent in Australia. So to win was really quite extraordinary. And I think to be voted by your peers is a great honour because, you know, we’re all working hard to achieve the best results. And to have that approval, is very important.

How many times have you participated in Australian Fashion Week? I only recall seeing you on the runway there once.
Yes only once.

Simply because I like showing in a more intimate way and I think Fashion Week is about a thousand people.

In your acceptance speech you said that you thought the event had put Australia on the map.
Yes it has, I really believe… for brands that are not well-known. Particularly young brands who are trying to make a breakthrough. I think it’s very important for them. It’s one way to showcase what they are doing and allowing the buyers..

So, you didn’t think that you needed to be at Fashion Week then?
No, because I think we are a vertically-integrated organization with our own boutiques, so it’s less important for us.

Have you ever exported?
I used to have a store in New York.

How long ago was that?
A long time ago. Late ‘80s/early ‘90s.

How long was the store there for?
It was there for about 18 months. And in Washington, in one of these centres.

You had two stores?
Yes. For about 18 months, for both of them. But the timing was wrong. New York, late ‘80s/early ‘90s wasn’t a very good time. So we decided that to become really well known in New York, you really had to spend time there and I decided that was going to be too difficult for me and I had noone on the ground here that I could send. So I decided it was best to concentrate on my domestic market and develop my retail.

According to the Laureate’s eligibility criteria, candidates must have “global reach”. Which your brand really doesn’t have, does it?
No it doesn’t have. But I think we have international customers. We have many expats who don’t live in Australia who actually buy from us. By email.

But it’s not really a global brand.
No, it’s not a global brand.

You could have been a global brand.
I could have been, but I chose not to. I decided I’d rather… I wanted to concentrate in Australia. Also I think the difficulty… unless you’re making transseasonal product, which most people are doing today, it’s really hard to grow a global brand from Australia because of the opposite seasons. The main market is the northern hemisphere. So you almost have to run two collections and I also found that quite difficult.

If the Laureate is supposed to go to a brand with global reach, are you saying that you do qualify by virtue of the fact that you have international customers?
Yes – but also I did export at that point. And then set up two stores.

Is it too late now to export?
Well I mean my next generation…. I have my two daughters working in my business and they may do it. And I think Australia is much more on the fashion map than it has been in the past. So I think it’s much more possible. I think there’s an awareness about Australian fashion that probably when I started, there was not. Also in the ‘80s, I don’t think that awareness was strong either.

Might we see Carla Zampatti at New York Fashion Week?
[Laughs] No… well... I mean, under somebody else’s guidance, yes it could possibly be. Because I think it is a brand that will continue on beyond my stewardship. And I think I would leave that to the next generation.


Paul said...

Lemme see if I've got this straight: not a global brand.

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