Fashion designer gives back

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013
Trelise Cooper
ELLA BROCKELSBY
FASHION DAME: Trelise Cooper is one of NZ's most successful designers.

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Dame Trelise Cooper might be best known for her fashion label but it is also her spirit of giving back that has seen her awarded one of the country's highest honours.

Dame Trelise, who has been awarded a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in today's New Year Honours, is one of three New Zealand fashion designers – the others are Karen Walker and World's Francis Hooper – who have been 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, is one of New Zealand's most successful designers with more than 200 stockists across Europe, America, Asia, the Middle East and Australasia.

She also has a strong history of volunteer work including 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 that works to end the cycle of poverty.

This year she became involved with Maritage International, a UN partner organisation focused on promoting connections between women from developed and developing countries, and was invited to speak at the UN in New York.

Dame Trelise said she did volunteer work "because I really mean it, not because I wanted to get a gong".

"I do that because I really believe in giving back," she said.

"My whole life . . . my dad was a very big believer in giving back to the community and giving back to those less fortunate."

Her family were "ecstatic" but would take some adjusting to the title of Dame.

"That will be very unusual," she said.

"I can just imagine it's going to be the source of much hilarity – in a good way."

Walker has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, after having been made a member of the order 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.

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"It gives you a moment to pause and reflect and be grateful for the opportunities and be proud for a moment."

Walker sells her wares in more than 30 countries and has shown her collections at New York and London fashion weeks. She has expanded her designs to include jewellery, eyewear, homeware and a paint range.

She has also been an ambassador for the Breast Cancer Research Trust for more than 10 years.

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.

World has shown at fashion weeks in London, Paris, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and is sold around the world. Designs produced by Hooper are featured in museums in both New Zealand and Australia.

Hooper said he was thrilled by the award.

"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. Fashion is something that I love. So to be acknowledged is a lovely thing."

- Fairfax Media

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