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Level 1, 185 Faraday Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia





Thursday 28 July, Melbourne, Australia

Today, Sofia Abel, 19, has been announced as the winner of the inaugural Australian Multicultural Foundation Carla Zampatti Scholarship For Young Women . As part of receiving the scholarship the young designer will have $10,000 to contribute to extending the sustainability qualities of her handmade apparel business, Cienti The Label. In the first instance, this will be setting up the rentable arm of her collection to further reduce the environmental footprint and upskilling her business acumen.

A story not dissimilar to the scholarship’s inspiration, the late Carla Zampatti AC, Sofia emigrated to Australia from Bolivia with her parents at the age of eight with no English and community. Just nine years later, at only 17, the savvy digital native launched her designs on Tik Tok and Instagram – both of which helped her grow a community of conscious consumers.

The mindset of the teenage entrepreneur was to build the antithesis of today’s fast fashion e-commerce brands which are notoriously low on cost yet questionably harmful for the environment. Instead she imagined a collection for her generation that celebrated slow fashion and the feel good factor of wearing planet conscious materials.

I’m delighted that Sofia has won the inaugural Carla Zampatti scholarship because her story is so similar to my mother’s. Sofia shows a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit and unwavering determination that belies her age. Her determination has allowed her to overcome all the language and cultural barriers that exist for non-English speaking migrants. Sofia has a very bright future and I’m sure she will be a trailblazer for the next generation of young businesswomen,” says Alexander Schuman, Carla’s son and CEO of Carla Zampatti Fashion

Sofia was one of three finalists who presented community minded business plans. The distinction prize has been awarded to humanitarian refugee (from Togo, West Africa), Natacha Adanlessossi, 28, who runs an Afro-hair styling business, Afro – Hair by Natacha, from her Ballarat home. Natacha will receive $5,000 to go towards purchasing more styling products for her business and undertaking a menteeship to increase her digital, technology and financial acumen. And a commendation has been awarded to humanitarian refugee (from Iraq) , Raneen Shamon, 22, who runs art workshops in Sydney. Her prize includes a menteeship organised by the Australian Multicultural Foundation.

We were thrilled with the number of applications. This once again, shows us the diversity of talent and skills currently underutilised. The scholarship is a great opportunity to encourage the development of innovative and creative business opportunities for young women from diverse cultural backgrounds who may experience some disadvantages. Sofia was certainly a great example of such talent for the future.” , says Dr. Hass Dellal AO, Executive Director Australian Multicultural Foundation.

Sofia was presented the award by Hass and Alex alongside her proud mother and fellow scholarship finalist Natacha at the Museo Italiano in Carlton, Melbourne.

“I feel extremely grateful. I am so excited for this opportunity from the Australian Multicultural Foundation and the Carla Zampatti family. Being the recipient of the scholarship is not only exciting and hugely rewarding for the short term but it is a real opportunity to launch my vision for Cienti and push my brand as much as I can and hopefully set myself up for the future as well,” says Sofia.

You can read further about Sofia and Natacha in Marie Claire, ABC Ballarat, The Canberra Times, Daily Mail, the Ballarat Courier, and many more. You can also watch coverage of the Scholarship event at SBS World News.

Photography by Marie Economou