Tamsin Cooper's ballet style

Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013
Tamsin Cooper
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
STRIKE A POSE: Tamsin Cooper (centre) poses with her Royal NZ Ballet dancer models Hayley Donnison (left) and Katherine Grange (right).

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Designing a black and white collection for the Royal New Zealand Ballet's 60th anniversary has involved a cultural shift for fashion designer Tamsin Cooper, who is known for her bright, colourful garments and accessories.

Cooper's collection will be unveiled by two ballerinas on the catwalk during Dunedin iD fashion week next month.

The tutus, short jackets, coats and bags are pure black and white. There's a reason for this - the designs reference the black swan and the white swan in 'Swan Lake', the Royal New Zealand Ballet's upcoming centrepiece production, taking the stage in July.

Long coats and short jackets feature bustles, alluding to the swan's form. The white flowers and silver glass beads on the garments, which symbolise the diamond anniversary, have been hand-embroidered in Vietnamese villages.

It is a contrast to what Cooper typically designs. Her silk brooches, coats and other accessories are known for their colour.

She says: "I use palettes of up to 10 colour ways and usually with colourful hand-embroidered detailing.

"My collections are usually seen as quite a contrast on the catwalk to the stereotypical Dunedin look, which is known to be quite dark."

It is fitting that the Dunedin-based designer has created the collection, as she did ballet for six years as a young girl. A proportion of sales go to the ballet, like a form of sponsorship. She has already designed two collections for the company - in 2009, and again in 2011 specifically for its 'Sleeping Beauty' production. 

"There are wonderful synergies between ballet and fashion and I saw the brands as fitting well together as my design aesthetic is feminine and romantic," Cooper says.

The ballet is also such a well-known, established, internationally-recognised company."

Katherine Grange, 23, a RNZB dancer since 2010, and 19-year-old Hayley Donnison, an apprentice in her first year, will collaborate and improvise some ballet steps to show on the 120 metre-long catwalk at Dunedin's historic railway station. Luckily, the shows fall into a gap between the company's 'Made to Move' tour dates. 'Made to Move' opens in Wellington tonight.

"We have danced in big costumes before, but we haven't done it in really big coats," Grange says.

RNZB artistic director Ethan Stiefel chose the ballerinas to model. "They'll be basically bringing the ballet essence into a runway show, I think these two ladies are going to be absolutely stellar."

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