The impressive abode, conservatively estimated to be worth $15 million, was a long way from the cramped little flat she first lived in at Darling Point with four girlfriends after arriving in Sydney in 1963.
“It really is an extraordinarily successful fashion business in Australia,” says Women’s Wear Daily’s Australian correspondent Patty Huntington.
“What happens in the future is a big question for the Zampatti family. Will they promote from within, one of the design assistants perhaps? Or will a new head designer be installed from outside? This is a situation every fashion house has had to contend with when their creative head has died, from Dior to Chanel.
“It would be a brilliant opportunity for a young designer with strong tailoring talents, someone like a Dion Lee or Carl Kapp perhaps … or even Carla’s daughter Bianca Spender.”
That the label’s founder and head designer managed to keep it an entirely private and family-run business speaks volumes to Zampatti’s tenacity and business acumen, especially as so many of her peers have disappeared over the years. The Australian fashion landscape is littered with labels that have either collapsed under crushing debt or been sold by their namesakes to larger corporations, only then to slowly vaporise into nothing.
While Zampatti was clearly at the helm of her label right to her end, she was not alone. Several senior designers would work with her on collections, travelling the world with her to canvas trends. But it was Zampatti’s keen eye and editing prowess that would ultimately cast the final vote on what garments made it to the public.
Those same designers could easily continue doing what they have done for the foreseeable future, but ultimately all design houses need a captain to steer their creative vision, just as Yves Saint Laurent stepped in when Christian Dior suddenly died from a heart attack, and Karl Lagerfeld eventually took the reins at Chanel after the death of Coco.
During Thursday’s funeral mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Zampatti’s three children addressed the congregation, Alex revealing to the packed pews the siblings joked his mother considered her label a “fourth and sometimes favourite child”.
His younger sister Allegra Spender, considered to have a keen business mind, pledged to carry on her mother’s legacy.
“We will miss her warm presence, her perspective, her sense of fun, her love and care of us and the joy she took from the world. We are very proud of you Mum,” she told the cathedral. “We are committed to continuing your legacy of inspiring, empowering and supporting women.”
Madame Lash’s legacy plans
While Gretel Pinniger, aka Madame Lash, was reminiscing about her glorious past last week with PS, it is her immediate future that has been making waves around the famous dominatrix’s old stomping grounds in Surry Hills.
Pinniger has lodged a development application with City of Sydney Council to convert the historic de-consecrated church she has owned for nearly 40 years, The Kirk, into a boarding house. So far the proposal has attracted 30 objections from locals unhappy with the plans. Indeed, over the years she has met with similar resistance over previous proposals that never materialised.
But this time she says the plans have a far greater urgency.
Pinniger, 75, says her intention and desire is to leave a lasting legacy for Sydney’s creative community, explaining the proposal also includes artists’ residents and studios, which are to be paid for by developing the site into an ongoing business.
“The design itself is truly a thing of beauty. It’s like something out of Game Of Thrones, with huge copper tiles adorning the new roof like a dragon’s scales. I don’t want to create something ugly, the intention is to provide a thing of beauty for generations to come … but it also has to pay for itself in the long run,” Pinniger told PS.
“I’ve owned the place for 38 years. I haven’t been able to host events there because it no longer meets the safety requirements. I’ve paid an awful lot of land tax and rates over the years, and I continue to do so because I don’t want to see the place go and be demolished for more ugly apartments. I am trying to provide a creative space for artists and performers to exist, under my roof and my grace.”
And if she fails to convince her neighbours and the council, Pinniger fears she will have no choice but to sell the historic site, which has long been a landmark on Cleveland Street, complete with the huge bronze doors featuring erotic depictions she installed decades ago. “And that will be very sad for all of Sydney,” she said, “and not just the immediate neighbours.”
Sydney’s second-hand jewellery market is red-hot with two major upcoming auctions being held by Leonard Joel and Bonhams attracting plenty of attention.
First cab off the rank is the Leonard Joel Important Jewels auction in Woollahra on April 20, and the undisputed star of the show will be the humungous diamond ring being sold by an unnamed “investor”. The seller only bought the diamond, mined in Canada, a few months ago and could pocket somewhere between $990,000 and $1.2 million, making it potentially the most expensive diamond ever to be offered in Australia.
The magnificent 25.02 stone was cut from a 47.961 carat “rough”. Since arriving in Australia it has sat mostly in a safe, but was recently set into a ring by a Strand Arcade jeweller so potential buyers could try it on. It went on view on Friday.
Bonhams jewellery expert Fiona Frith says that for many buyers, it is the story behind the jewels – who owned them and where they were acquired – that holds almost as much appeal as the stones and settings.
Last year Bonhams secured more than $2 million for an unidentified Australian family who needed to offload a pair of large sapphires. The auction house soon realised they were rare Kashmir sapphires, and in the middle of the pandemic sent them to New York where they were snapped up for 100 times what the family had hoped they were worth.
Bonhams next jewellery sale happens on April 27 and includes the glittering collection of an unnamed late Sydney socialite who travelled south-east Asia and amassed an extraordinary collection of pieces by Greek society jeweller Ilias Lalaounis along with other remarkable creations in amber and jade.
Those pieces will be joined by the collection of a former Singaporean beauty queen who has decided to offload her redundant jewels, but has chosen to do so in Sydney to avoid alerting her girlfriends in her hometown.
Society doyenne settles over pooch
Heiress Ros Oatley has reached an out-of-court settlement with charity fundraiser Juliet Potter. In December PS revealed Potter was suing Oatley in the District Court after she was attacked by Oatley’s pet dog during the annual Merry Litmas fundraiser Oatley was hosting at her Mosman mansion.
Following PS reports several other alleged victims came forward with similar stories about Oatley’s rescue dog, a great dane named Abbie. One of the alleged victims, Julie Murfet, had also commenced legal action.
While details of Potter’s settlement are confidential, PS was informed that Mosman Council has a copy of Abbie’s death certificate.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.