Naomi Simson: How Carla Zampatti changed my world

AAP/Dean Lewins

Could I, should I and would I, are all questions that many budding entrepreneurs ask. And from that place we look to others, we see what they did, who they are and how it all turned out.

I’m sure that as a budding designer in the 1960s, Carla Zampatti was driven by passion and her need to design beautiful garments for new generations of women who were changing the world.

And in so doing she changed our world.

Her business, community and philanthropic contribution is well-documented. But it is also Carla the woman, and generous, elegant and strong individual, that we will miss. Her presence, passion and interest in people shone through in every conversation.

I was fortunate to know her in a number of realms from Chief Executive Women, to UTS, as well as attending many of her events too. One particular conversation stood out amongst them all.

I was a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year and as part of the judging for the national competition we were interviewed in a ‘speed dating’ style by a dozen or so judges. It was 2011, I was 10 years into my RedBalloon entrepreneurial journey and while the other 11 judges asked me questions about business, vision, and growth, Carla Zampatti wanted to know me, the person.

The vivid conversation I had with Carla in those minutes was about colour. I spoke of my love for paint, creativity and design, and of my ambition as a young woman to be an artist. I shared that for me being an entrepreneur was part of bringing my creativity to life. We giggled and laughed and I felt of all those judges, she was the only one that uncovered who I really am.

This was not the first time I had met Carla, but over the subsequent years at an event, in a board room, or at the judging table, she was always so present, so generous, and somehow she knew where we had left off in the last conversation. She was of course an inspiration to many entrepreneurs, but more than that, she became part of our journey. 

As a startup founder with no money to ‘own’ a Carla Zampatti outfit, it seemed a pipe dream to wear one of her designs. To own one would be the definition of ‘I’ve made it’. One never forgets the first time one can afford such a wonderful ‘piece’. It is a marker in one’s own journey.

For the last 10 years as my business has thrived, I now realise that Carla has been there at most of my ‘milestone’ events.

Whether it was the launch of Big Red Group, on the set of Shark Tank, at the media wall of so many events there I was wearing a Carla. The highlight was when she (and her team) agreed to make me the red velvet cape that I wore to the 2018 Logies. This cape represents so much: my growth, my ‘success’, and being very comfortable in who I am.

It takes role models to show others the way. Carla Zampatti has been that for so many.

Forever her legacy will shine bright for the business community, the arts, and of course many, many women leaders and business owners who learned and were inspired by who she was, her love of community, her courage and her incredible design and her humanness.


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A post shared by Naomi Simson (@naomisimson)


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