Dame Trelise Cooper DNZM
For service to Fashion
Dame Trelise Cooper is one of New Zealand's most successful and internationally accomplished fashion designers. She believes fashion is The Theatre of Dreams; and celebrating all that it means to be a woman is at the forefront of her renowned, highly elaborate, and spectacular fashion. The Trelise Cooper style is born out of the adventurous New Zealand spirit and embraces the quirkiness and originality that comes with living at the edge of the world.
Trelise grew in up Henderson, West Auckland as the second child of Joe and Pamela Neill. Her love for fashion started early, enjoying playing dress-ups as a child. She attended Henderson High School before leaving at the age of 15 to work as a Receptionist and House Model in the fashion industry.
Establishing her business in 1985 with the opening of her boutique ‘Limited Editions by Trelise Cooper’ in Auckland’s High Street, her exceptional success meant she could establish a workroom and open a second store in Wellington the following year. Her power suits and extravagant evening gowns were worn by major characters in the series Gloss, a glamourous 80s television drama. The stock market crash and choosing to focus on her family led to the close of the boutiques in 1989.
In 1997 she re-entered the fashion scene, opening the first Trelise Cooper boutique in Parnell in 1998, which remains her premier flagship today. The success of the Trelise Cooper label led to global expansion into Australian, American and European markets. There are now eight flagship boutiques plus over 200 stockists around the world. To cater to her diverse clientele and growing export markets Trelise introduced a number of diffusion lines. Such decisions to capitalise on the brand’s success proved rewarding when Trelise Cooper won the New Zealand Export Award in 2002, for export sales contributing to 50% of the business’ annual turnover.
The five labels (Trelise Cooper, Cooper, COOP, Curate and Little Trelise) are adored by women across the world, including high profile international celebrities. With a continued focus to grow and expand her business Trelise created the Trelise Cooper Online store in 2011 which fast became her highest turnover store. Thanks to her early adoption of Social Media channels, Trelise is able to interact with 92K followers on Facebook and 29K followers on Instagram around the world on a daily basis.
In 2010 Trelise Cooper was selected by Air New Zealand out of 25 international designers to create their new uniform. Over 90,000 garments have been produced to create a wardrobe that is worn by more than 5,000 staff.
A committed supporter and mentor to young designers, Trelise has worked closely with many fashion students encouraging their hopes and dreams. Her collections have featured at New Zealand Fashion Week since its inception in 2001, and in 2014 Trelise became the first New Zealand designer to receive the Mercedes-Benz Presents accolade at NZFW.
Empathetic, creative and passionate, Trelise is well known and respected for her philanthropy and sponsoring of both charitable and ideological causes in New Zealand and abroad. She has been Patron of the Breast Cancer Research Trust and Auckland’s Returned Services Association for War Veterans. In 2009 Trelise took a team of 50 to Thailand to spend a week building houses for Habitat for Humanity. In 2004 through one of her Indian fabric suppliers Trelise became a sponsor of Tomorrows Foundation, a charity in Kolkata which educates, feeds and aims to empower children of the slums to be independent of the cycle of poverty.
A strong believer in everyone playing a part in protecting our planet, since 2008 over one million of the Trelise designed reusable and biodegradable jute Eco Bags have been sold in New Zealand supermarkets, helping reduce single use plastic bag consumption.
Her good works have also been rewarded by Queen Elizabeth II, becoming a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004, and Knighted as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2014 for services to fashion and the community. In 2014 she was also inducted into the New Zealand Hall of Fame for Women Entrepreneurs in recognition of her success in business and philanthropic endeavours.