Making their debut on The List – Australia’s Richest 250 this year in 2023, some 32 years and 53 boutiques – from Paddington to Paris – after starting out, the Zimmermann sisters have successfully sold a breezily elegant take on Australian style to the world. It is enough for their wealth to be estimated at $600m. Something no other Australian designer brand has even come close to.
As well as being a stand out at NY Fashion Week the Zimmermann sisters have also started showing in Paris. In a week dominated by the biggest names in European fashion – Dior, Chanel, Saint Laurent – with near limitless budgets and all the pomp and pageantry you’d expect from brands owned by billionaires, an Australian fashion house showing its wares is a significant achievement.
Collette Dinnigan made her mark on the Paris runways in the mid-1990s. Kym Ellery followed in the 2010s. Zimmermann, founded by sisters Nicky and Simone in 1991, is following in those footsteps.
And unlike Dinnigan, who had one store in London, and Ellery, who had no stores outside of Australia, the Zimmermann brand has global heft. The business employs 900 people and is financially robust with revenue (as of its last results in 2020) of $220 million. Its clothes are worn by everyone from the Princess of Wales to Beyonce. It has stores in Paris, London and Shanghai, and in the past two years has expanded to Cannes, Rome and Naples.
“As an Australian brand we don’t have a natural home overseas,” says Nicky Zimmermann of the move to Paris Fashion Week from New York, where it showed for 14 years. “We can do what we want. We can definitely do New York again, but it’s about what is right for the business at the time. Paris is the home of fashion; to show here is incredible.”
Zimmermann’s turn towards Europe represents the wheels of the fashion business in motion.
Milan-based private equity fund Style Capital bought a 70 per cent stake in the company at the end of 2020 paying $408 million, according to Women’s Wear Daily (a figure that Zimmermann declines to confirm).
Zimmermann is an Australian fashion brand that has gained widespread global recognition and success over the past two decades. Founded in 1991 by sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann, the brand has become known for its signature romantic and feminine aesthetic, which incorporates delicate fabrics, intricate detailing, and a touch of bohemian style. This story features the rise of Zimmermann as a fashion brand, including an analysis of some of its standout shows and collections, as well as insights from founder Nicky Zimmerman.
The Early Years
It was a family affair from the start.
Zimmermann, the brand, is synonymous with the beach, but it’s a little further south than one might assume. Simone and Nicole Zimmermann, born three years apart, hail from the Sutherland Shire; Sylvania Waters, to be exact. Their parents, Joan and Erich, owned a spray-painting and smash repairs shop. Joan sewed her own clothes, and Simone and Nicky’s, too. The beach was a constant; on weekends, they swam at Cronulla, spending their holidays at Surfers Paradise.
For Nicky, the goal was always fashion design.
“There was nothing else I could do,” she jokes, sitting in her Sydney office. “Simone probably could have done anything.” Now the label’s chief operating officer, Simone started in computer marketing in the mid-80s, a role that was well suited to her methodical mind, but one that lacked excitement.
Zimmermann began as a small business. Nicky and Simone Zimmermann created and sold their designs at local Paddington markets in Sydney, Australia. Their initial focus was on swimwear, but they soon expanded into ready-to-wear clothing as well. The brand gained some early recognition in the fashion industry; with its designs featuring in Australian fashion magazines such as Vogue Australia and Harper’s Bazaar Australia.
In the early 2000s, Zimmermann began to gain international attention, with the brand showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York in 2005.
The show received positive reviews, with critics praising the brand’s combination of bohemian and feminine styles. This show marks a turning point for Zimmermann, helping to establish the brand as a serious player in the international fashion industry.
ZIMMERMANN’s early success was rooted in Nicky and Simone’s innovative approach to creating flattering swimwear, incorporating elements of high fashion into sexy and sculptural one pieces and bikinis. While they originally gained notoriety for their sophisticated and fashionable Swim and Resort collections, the brand has blossomed since the 90’s to now include ZIMMERMANN Swimwear, Separates, Kids, Footwear, and Accessories. ZIMMERMANN is famous for their delicate, original prints, high quality fabrics, feminine details, and classic designs with a modern spin.
Over the years, Zimmermann has produced many standout collections. These have helped to establish the brand’s unique aesthetic and signature style.
One of the brand’s most memorable collections is its Fall/Winter 2016 collection, appearing at New York Fashion Week. The collection was inspired by the 1970s, with a focus on bohemian silhouettes, rich textures, and bold prints. The show features models walking down a runway lined with lush greenery and tropical plants; creating a sense of exoticism and wanderlust.
Another standout collection was Zimmermann’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection, drawing inspiration from the French Riviera. The collection featured a mix of feminine dresses, tailored separates, and beachy swimwear, all in a palette of pastels and bright colours. The show was held in a Parisian courtyard, with models walking down a runway lined with palm trees and bougainvillea. The collection was praised for its effortless elegance and vacation-ready vibe.
In addition to these standout collections, Zimmermann has also gained attention for its collaborations with other brands and designers. In 2019, the brand partnered with Nike to create a limited-edition line of sneakers featuring Zimmermann’s signature prints. The collaboration was a hit, with the sneakers selling out within hours of their release.
Zimmermann 2022 Show, 31st January 2022
Zimmerman’s Spring Catwalk show for 2022 explored the many different sides of The Dancer. The collection is a pas de deux of binary concepts – strength and fragility, movement and structure, dark and lightness, self-discipline and creative intuition.
Inspired by the empowering elegance of dance, what better way to showcase the collection than to collaborate with Harlequin, the performance floor of choice for the world’s most prestigious dance and performing arts companies!
Ballet is a central theme in this floral collection; inspiring bodysuits and chiffon skirts worn with wrap cashmere tops, and heels with ankle-tied ribbons.
“This season we explored the ideas of strength and fragility. We thought about dance – an appreciation of the power and athleticism, the graceful movement and fluidity of a dancer on the stage.”
Creative Director, Nicky Zimmermann
And the 2024 show, Matchmaker.
Global Expansion of Stores
Zimmerman is now one of the few truly Australian luxury fashion labels, , is available in international retail locations such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Selfridges and Saks 5th Ave, and with flagship stores in places like Capri Italy, New York, Paris, London, Sydney, Milan, Beverly Hills. ZIMMERMANN’s newest location in New Jersey USA marked the brand’s twentieth store in the United States since the 2011 opening of their first US location in Beverly Hills. After launching stores across the US, UK, Europe, and continuing their international expansion with recent store openings in Spain and China, ZIMMERMANN is always adding devoted followers who love their breathtaking and innovative designs.
Nicky Zimmerman on the Rise of the Brand
In interviews, Nicky Zimmerman has spoken about the challenges and rewards of building a successful fashion brand. She has emphasised the importance of staying true to the brand’s vision and aesthetic, even as the brand has grown and expanded into new markets.
In a 2018 interview with Fashionista, Zimmerman spoke about the brand’s early days, saying,
“We started very small and grew organically, and I think that’s really important. We had a very clear vision of what we wanted to do, so we stayed true to that and didn’t get sidetracked.”
Zimmerman has also emphasised the importance of innovation and creativity in the fashion industry. In a 2020 interview with Vogue Australia, she said, “It’s important to keep pushing yourself and to keep innovating. I think that’s what keeps the brand fresh and exciting. We’re always looking for new ways to experiment with fabrics, prints, and silhouettes, and that’s what keeps us motivated.”
Zimmerman has also spoken about the challenges of expanding the brand into new markets, particularly the US market. In a 2019 interview with Business of Fashion, she said, “It’s been a bit of a learning curve for us, trying to navigate the US market. But I think we’ve learned a lot from our experiences, and we’re continuing to grow and evolve.”
Zimmermann is a fashion brand that has undergone significant growth and success over the past two decades. Founded by sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann in Sydney, Australia, the brand has become known for its signature romantic and feminine aesthetic, which incorporates delicate fabrics, intricate detailing, and a touch of bohemian style.
Over the years, Zimmermann has produced many standout collections, including its Fall/Winter 2016 and Spring/Summer 2019 collections, which were praised for their unique aesthetic and vacation-ready vibe. Nicky Zimmerman has emphasised the importance of staying true to the brand’s vision and aesthetic, while also pushing the boundaries of innovation and creativity in the fashion industry. Despite the challenges of expanding into new markets, Zimmermann continues to grow and evolve, solidifying its position as a major player in the international fashion industry.
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