Meet the winner of the Carla Zampatti Scholarship for Young Women
For most 19-year-olds, the chapter after high school graduation is marked by debauched and frivolous behavior.
However, for Sofia Abel, the next stage of her life will follow in the footsteps of the late great designer Carla Zampatti AC.
Today, Sofia Abel is recognized as the first recipient of the newly created but equally prestigious Carla Zampatti Australian Multicultural Scholarship for Young Women.
Zampatti, who tragically died in April last year, played a central role in the creation of this award.
While she was sadly not alive to see the Bolivian present her ambitious vision for her eco-conscious ready-to-wear brand, Cienti The Label, Zampatti’s son Alex Schuman, notices that she embodies the same “dynamic entrepreneurial spirit and steely determination” that Zampatti herself was renowned for.
As the winner of the scholarship, Abel will walk away with $100,000 plus mentorship to support and grow her brand and exemplify Zampatti’s legacy as a young businesswoman from an emerging culturally and linguistically diverse background. .
“Carla was not exclusive to fashion, she was a pioneer in the business world,” Australian Multicultural Foundation executive director Dr Hass Dellal AO explained in a press release.
“Through this scholarship, we want to see more culturally diverse young women overcome obstacles and challenges to achieve their aspirations and, in doing so, build the future prosperity of multicultural Australia,” they added.
Before the award ceremony at the Museo Italiano in Melbourne, Marie Claire Australia caught up with Sofia to discuss the future of Cienti The Label, her passion for sustainable fashion and her immigrant experience.
Courtesy of Carla Zampatti Image Archive
Congratulations on winning the Sofia Scholarship First Prize! Can you tell us about your background and how you discovered your love of fashion?
I moved to Australia from Bolivia when I was 8 for my dad’s job – coming to Australia was exciting and adventurous. I’ve always had an interest in fashion, but it wasn’t until I was 15, while vacationing in Bolivia, that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
My grandmother took me to a workplace where I applied for an internship. The atmosphere in the workroom was wonderful – creative and filled with passion. They had a mix of designers, pattern makers and seamstresses building collections. I learned some basic techniques, how to take measurements and especially put on a machine. I did my first top there and I haven’t stopped since.
What does it mean to you to be the first recipient of the Australian Multicultural Foundation Carla Zampatti Young Women Fellowship?
I feel extremely grateful [and] I am so excited about this opportunity from the Australian Multicultural Foundation. I look forward to the upcoming trip with advice from the Australian Multicultural Foundation to use the scholarship money to reinvest in the sustainability side of my business and increase my financial literacy.
Being the recipient of the Australian Multicultural Foundation scholarship is not only exciting and extremely rewarding in the short term, but it is a real opportunity to launch my vision for Cienti and push my brand as much as possible and hopefully to prepare myself for the future as well.
What made you decide to apply for the scholarship?
When I first read about the scholarship, I immediately connected not only to the requirements, but also to the values upheld by the Australian Multicultural Foundation and Carla Zampatti. It really excited me to apply and I felt ready to give my brand a chance and opportunity to grow.
Source: Sophie Abel
What about Carla Zampatti, her legacy and her brand inspire you the most?
Carla’s legacy as a women’s champion is what inspires me the most about her. This is also clearly reflected in her elegant and modern designs which allow women to feel empowered, inspired and beautiful when wearing a Carla Zampatti piece. I hope to incorporate some of this into my own brand and make my customers feel confident in my clothes.
Who are your heroes in the fashion industry?
I often admire Jacquemus who launched his brand at 19 and has been developing it ever since. He says, “I don’t make clothes; I make stories. Her designs have a sense of youthfulness and femininity, and are both classic and innovative – I love that.
Tell us about Cienti The Label – What are your inspirations? For whom do you create?
Cienti The Label is a responsible clothing brand that embodies youth, femininity and playful simplicity. I want to celebrate the wearer and make my client feel comfortable, modern and confident with every piece. I want to blend elegance into quality clothes to last through life’s moments in style.
Where do you see Cienti The Label in 5 years?
I want to grow with my brand. In 5 years, I see myself delivering capsule collections that represent both my brand and my life journey. For me, it’s important to slow down the fashion industry and produce responsibly while creating inspiring fashion statements.
I want to continue to offer limited ranges and expand to create exclusive rental-only clothing – I’m already testing this business model! Another of my goals is to present at the Brisbane Fashion Festival and build a small team to nurture and evolve the vision.
Source: Sophie Abel
What do you love most about Australian fashion? What is the biggest difference between Australian and Bolivian fashion?
I have noticed that Australian fashion has evolved to incorporate more thoughtful and sustainable options; I love it and think it’s really important for the future of the industry. Traditional Bolivian fashion is very colorful and uses raw materials such as alpaca wool.
Other than that, it is common for Bolivians to get personalized or custom-made clothing for special events; the cheap labor there allows this option regularly.
What do slow fashion and ethical business mean to you? Why is this something you are passionate about?
The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. 100 billion pieces of clothing are produced each year and 33% of these are landfilled within the first year of purchase. It’s crazy.
In a world of fast fashion, Cienti strives to strike a balance between maintaining ethical and environmental integrity while producing quality garments that will become timeless in your wardrobe. For me, it is important to be conscious and caring towards our planet and also to respect the art of the industry and those who produce our clothes.
What advice would you give to a budding young fashion designer?
I would say don’t be afraid. Prepare for setbacks, but prepare to do what you are passionate about and what makes you feel truly fulfilled. Be ambitious and show off. And, when it gets tough, learn to rest, not to give up. Also be sure to look and get involved in some great support programs like the one offered to me by the Australian Multicultural Foundation.