Homegrown Highlight: A Look at Designer Trelise Cooper


18 months ago  |  4 Minute(s) to read


Photo credit to James Yang, Nov 2016.

Working in a preloved designer boutique, we get asked all the time if we have any garments from renowned and celebrated New Zealand fashion houses and local designers. One of the requests that pops up the most, is Trelise Cooper - and we're not at all surprised. 

Now an international household name, Dame Trelise Cooper opened her first boutique back in 1985, and now has ten more as well as 300+ stockists across Australasia. Known for her vivid floral prints, eclectic flair and head-turning party dresses, the brand excites, delights and creates truly iconic womenswear that can be spotted a mile away.

With an eye for impeccable tailoring, Cooper's signature style exhibits flamboyancy, femininity and vibrancy - there's no wonder her high-end garments are in constant demand! But what's the story behind this innovative designer?

Who is Dame Trelise Cooper?

In the 1980's, Trelise opened up a popular Auckland boutique called Limited Editions, but in the wake of the stock market crash in 1989, closed in order to focus her energy on bringing up her son Jasper. After a few years working in Wellington, she decided to fly the nest and open her eponymous flagship store in Auckland in 1997. With the help of her husband, Jack Cooper of Cooper Watkinson Textiles, the launch was a huge success as women from all over New Zealand praised her luxurious yet idiosyncratic style - it was like nothing they'd witnessed before.

Trelise set up her business without any formal training, only passion and a desire for self-expression. She prides herself on being able to convey her joy for artistry through her colourful collections and traditional feminine silhouettes, attributing this vision to her world-wide success.

Claiming she was heavily inspired by American TV show host, Oprah Winfrey, Trelise adopted her holistic approach to running a business and put her staff at the epicentre. In order to create a harmonious and uplifting work environment, Trelise is known for burning incense, playing music and lighting candles in her employees work spaces, encouraging a healthy and calming atmosphere, noting that her employees input and ideas are always respected and lovingly listened to.

"People talk about a brand, a label, a business, but for me this is actually my life. This is what I get up and enjoy every day. I have huge challenges, but I still look forward to coming to work every day. It’s how I express myself in the world. It truly is everything I love." - Trelise Cooper (quote taken from NZ Curriculum)

Now the owner of a successful million-dollar export company, Trelise expanded her signature brand in order to cater for women wanting show-stopping pieces at a range of prices and styles. In addition to her self-named brand, Trelise Cooper, she also has COOP - designed by Kayla Jurlina and is aimed at the younger market, Cooper - designed by Julia Leuchars, and Curate - designed with both Kayla and Julia, this collection harnesses the brands original look and flavour but sits at a lower price point.


The brand can be found all over the world including Paris, Milan, the USA and Sydney and their designs have been worn by celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Liv Tyler and Miley Cyrus. New Zealand's economy relies heavily on export earnings - which has driven the designer to successfully export her designs globally and through this, earned a Trade New Zealand Export Award. In 2004, she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the fashion industry. She was also acknowledged by Air New Zealand in 2009 when she won the contract to design their new airline uniform, to be worn by 5000+ staff members. 

Cooper is no stranger to philanthropy either; in 2007 she was appointed Patron to the Breast Cancer Research Trust and has been a huge support to Habitat for Humanity. Trelise was also inducted into the New Zealand Hall of Fame for Women Entrepreneurs in recognition of her success in business and her charitable endeavours.

"Fashion is the Theatre of Dreams"

If you wish to see our collection of Trelise Cooper garments, type her in on our search bar and browse our stock list. The listings will also let you know which store they can be found in so you can try them on before you buy!

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