Top honour humbling says fashion designer

17:20, Dec 30 2013
trelise cooper
DAME COMPANION: Trelise Cooper.

Trelise Cooper is best known as a fashion designer, but it is her spirit of giving back that has seen her awarded one of the country's highest honours.

She becomes a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year honours, and is one of three designers - with Karen Walker and World's Francis Hooper - to be honoured.

Dame Trelise, who is holidaying with family in Northland, said she was "shocked and disbelieving" when she received the letter informing her of the honour.

"I am really thrilled," she said. "I am honoured and I guess I am quite humbled by it."

Dame Trelise, who was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004, has a history of volunteering, including working for Women's Refuge and the St James Mission Food Bank and Crisis Centre. She is a patron of the Breast Cancer Research Trust and the Auckland RSA, has a strong involvement with Habitat for Humanity, and sponsors Tomorrow's Foundation, a charity in India. She did volunteer work "because I really mean it, not because I wanted to get a gong", she said.

"I do that because I really believe in giving back. My whole life . . . my dad was a very big believer in giving back to the community and giving back to those less fortunate."


Walker has been made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, after having been made a member in 2004.

She said the honour was "touching" and a good way to reflect on her career.

"Life can be a bit cynical and eye-rolly at times, but this takes you out of that and is actually genuinely very sweet," she said.

Hooper, of the World fashion label, has been made a member of the order. He co-founded World in 1989 with his then-partner Denise L'Estrange-Corbet.

"I'm kind of a bit humbled and slightly embarrassed," he said.

"I do what I do. I'm a very lucky boy, I'm doing what I love . . . So to be acknowledged is a lovely thing."

Knighthoods have gone to Maori educationist Toby Curtis, Archbishop David Moxon, and horse-racing magnate Peter Vela, as well as to former Christchurch mayor Bob Parker.

Dr Curtis' career spanned 45 years and took him from the primary to the tertiary sector. He said he was humbled by the knighthood and said Maori education had made significant steps.

"When I started off everything in terms of Maori aspirations had to fit into a Pakeha framework; now everything we want fits into a Maori framework to the point that for us to get proper success Maori language is central to that development."

Sir David moved to Rome as the Anglican communion's international ambassador to the Vatican earlier in the year.

He said the award was recognition of the place of the church in New Zealand. "I was elected to be an archbishop, I can't function without a national church. It doesn't make sense to be a lone stranger in this role, you only exist, you only function because you've got a huge community of interest around you."

Businesswoman Alison Paterson joins Dame Trelise as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Former Southland district mayor Frana Cardno has been made a companion of the Order of Merit, and seven other former mayors have been made officers of the order.

Retired High Court judge Lester Chisholm also becomes a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for a 40-year-plus involvement in the judiciary and legal system.

Justice Chisholm, who stood down from the bench in August this year, said the award was "a pleasant surprise" but should reflect the work everyone in the judiciary system performs every day.

Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, who finishes his three-year term as chief of the Defence Force, also becomes a companion of the order, as does former New Zealand cricket captain and ICC match referee John Reid.

Phil Keoghan, presenter of The Amazing Race, becomes a member of the order, along with Dick Tayler, who won 10,000 metres gold at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch; Peter Dale, an advocate of youth and community sport for close to 30 years; netball administrator Sheryl Dawson; Rita Fatialofa-Patolo, who won world championships with both the Silver Ferns and women's softball teams and former squash player Ross Norman, who won the World Open in 1986. 

The Dominion Post