My friend Trelise Cooper was made a Dame in the New Zealand New Year’s Honours list. The award was made for services to the fashion industry and to the community. Congratulations Dame Trelise!

Being one of New Zealand’s most successful and internationally accomplished fashion designers with clients including Liv Tyler, Miley Cyrus, Stevie Nicks, Catherine Zeta Jones and Julia Roberts might sound glamorous – it is! With ten flagship boutiques worldwide plus over two hundred stockists across Europe, America, Asia and Australasia,  her brand has presence on the international fashion stage. She believes fashion is The Theatre of Dreams, and celebrating all that it means to be a woman is at the forefront of her elaborate and spectacular fashion. In 2010 Trelise was selected by Air New Zealand 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 in New Zealand and around the world.

But it is for her determined community work that Trelise truly deserves the Queen’s top honour. Empathetic, creative and passionate, Trelise is well known and respected for her philanthropy and sponsoring of causes in New Zealand and abroad. She is the Patron of the Breast Cancer Research Trust which has the goal of finding a cure for breast cancer by 2018, and an active supporter of Habitat for Humanity. In 2009 Trelise took a team of 50 to Thailand to spend a week building houses for Habitat for Humanity. And through one of her Indian fabric suppliers Trelise became a sponsor of Tomorrow’s Foundation, a charity in Kolkata which educates, feeds and aims to empower children of the slums to be independent of the cycle of poverty. 

In 2012 Trelise was invited by CNN to be part of their Fusion Journeys series which took six international stars of the creative world on a journey to a different culture, where they created something inspired by their experience. Trelise was filmed in India, a country she has been travelling to for over 10 years, working with suppliers to discover and use the different types of heritage embroidery skills handed down through family generations in villages around India, each specialising in different stitch work.  The CNN series connected Trelise with Maritage, a UN partner organization which makes connections between women from developing and developed countries to promote sustainable income for women. She will make a speech to an event at the UN in New York in March as Maritage’s honorary fashion designer.

And to truly demonstrate the level commitment Trelise has to the community, she was named Patron of Auckland’s Returned Services Association for War Veterans, the first woman to hold this position in its 96 year history.  She has family’s connections to World War I through an uncle who was a commander and her stepson served in the army. With Anzac Day this year marking 100 years since the commencement of WWI, Poppy Day on April 25 will be even more special.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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