Legendary Australian fashion designer Carla Zampatti has died.

The 78-year-old had been hospitalised after a fall on some stairs at the opening night of the opera La Traviata at Mrs Macquarie’s Point a week ago.

Zampatti died at Sydney’s St Vincent Hospital on Saturday.

Born in Italy in 1942, Zampatti migrated to Australia in 1950, setting up her fashion label 15 years later.

Her designs have been worn by some of Australia’s most influential women, including Princess Mary of Denmark, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, actor Nicole Kidman and New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian.

A statement released by her family on Saturday said: “Carla has long been celebrated for making Australian women feel confident and elegant through her exceptional design, tailoring and understanding of the modern woman.”

In 1970, five years after producing her first fashion collection, Zampatti established Carla Zampatti Pty Ltd.

She went on to expand her retail network to create a chain of boutiques across Australia and New Zealand.

Her family said “her clothes are truly considered a distinctive part of modern Australian lifestyle”.

“A champion of Australian women and a multicultural success story, she continued to thrive as a businesswoman through enormous radical and social change, designing clothes for women fighting for liberation through the women’s rights movement in the 1960s to empowering women today in leadership, the workplace, in their home and at major life events,” the statement said.

Zampatti was the mother of three children, Alexander Schuman, Bianca Spender and Allegra Spender. She was married to Leo Schuman and former Australian lawyer, politician and diplomat John Spender, and had nine grandchildren.

An online memorial page has been established to commemorate Zampatti’s life and work.

Bianca Spender said Zampatti was “my inspiration, my mentor and my friend. I am lost for words and totally heartbroken.”

Ita Buttrose, the chair of the ABC and a former editor of Cleo Magazine and the Australian Women’s Weekly, said Zampatti’s death represented “a great loss to Australian women, Australian fashion, and Australian business and the community in general because she was quite a unique woman”.

“She designed clothes that were feminine and appealing to women. I think that is why she had such a wide appeal,” she said.

Buttrose, who also attended the opening night of La Traviata but did not see Zampatti fall, said she was known for her incredible work ethic.

“I am sure she has left behind all sorts of designs,” she said. “She would have been designing the next season and I’m sure it is somewhere, drawing or something Carla wanted to be done.”

Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said Zampatti embodied “the success of our remarkable multicultural nation” while Berejiklian said she was a “true trailblazer in every respect”.

Australian actor Magda Szubanski was among those paying tribute to Zampatti online.

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