One of the most successful designers from New Zealand, Trelise Cooper is known for the feminine values she holds close to her heart. The self-made fashionista’s career has been one wild ride with the opening of her first shop at Auckland’s High Street at the age of 23, with no formal education in fashion design. Her second shop opened in Wellington after the overnight success of her first shop. She got married to Australia’s largest fabric wholesaler, Jack Cooper and decided to sell off her shops and become a stay at home mom after giving birth to her son Jasper. Later, she worked at Classic Fashions as a designer to gain experience and started her very first label under her own name, Trelise Cooper.
In 1997, she started designing her own line and Trelise has gone a long way from there since then. Five years down the line, the Trelise Cooper Company reached new heights in the world of fashion from having just one outlet to a multi-million dollar international company becoming a source of livelihood for about 550 New Zealanders. She won the NZ Export Award for bringing in an annual turnover of $8 million in 2001 with half of it coming from export earnings solely.
When it comes to designing outfits, Cooper’s inspiration comes from different cultures like the colorful saris worn by Indian women, Tokyo’s schoolgirls from Harajuku and the vintage table cloths sold in France’s provincial markets. The housewife turned designer’s catchy and fashion forward designs soon caught the attention of fashion savvy women and Rebecca Weinberg in particular who is the wardrobe director of Sex and the City. She got her hands on 12 Trelise Cooper designs right after the Melbourne Fashion Week and has kept on coming back for more.
Known for her unconventional ways, Trelise designs outfits with one philosophy in mind that ‘fashion is the theatre of dreams’ and calls her business a feminine democracy for she goes with her heart and natural instincts rather than taking calculated risks. Until now, her decisions have proven to be fruitful for her. Trelise currently has three clothing ranges; Trelise Cooper, Cooper by Trelise and an experimental clothing line for children by the name of Trelise Cooper Kids. She not only designs clothes but a fabric range for interiors as well called Trelise Cooper Interiors in partnership with textile house Charles Parsons. Her signature fragrance, Trelise came out in 2009 but that’s not all; she also became the first designer to host a fashion show on the cruise ship, Queen Mary later that year.
Trelise Cooper is also a patron of the Breast Cancer Research Trust and a dedicated supporter of Habitat for Humanity. She initiated an onsite house building to promote this charity at the New Zealand Fashion Week of 2009. Being concerned about the environment, she also developed a line of recyclable eco-friendly bags for Progressive Enterprises, a supermarket chain. Cooper also had the honor of becoming a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004 which advanced to the Dame companion in the same order later in 2014.
Trelise’s star studded list of followers includes big names like Julia Roberts, Liv Tyler, Lindsay Lohan, the Pussycat Dolls, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Fleet Mac’s Stevie Nicks. The designer’s outfits are featured in famous fashion magazine like Vogue, InStyle and Marie Claire from time to time.