5 Minutes With ... Trelise Cooper, Fashion Designer

Trelise Cooper is a fashion veteran. One of New Zealand's most successful designers, Auckland-based Trelise is known and loved internationally for her feminine pieces, cuts and fabric. It all started in 1985 when Trelise opened her first boutique but after starting a family, she decided to put her design dreams on hold. In 1997 Trelise Cooper was reborn, bigger and better than ever. Gracing the pages of some of the best international fashion magazines and seen on Sex And The City, Trelise Cooper is taking the world by storm. Having just completed New Zealand Fashion Week, Spoilt was lucky enough to catch a moment with the woman behind the brand Trelise Cooper and its diffusion labels, Cooper and COOP.

Trelise, your designs exude individuality and femininity. What do you enjoy most about being a woman? Being a woman is incredibly empowering, we can be anything we want to be and I try and get that across in my designs. A woman can be sexy, soft and strong all at once and above all I want my designs to make a woman look and feel confident and beautiful.

Designs differ dramatically between the three labels! How would you describe your design aesthetic? My design aesthetic is inherently feminine with a twist, I love the mashing together of opposites and a dynamic tension of unexpected but still gorgeous. I want women to have fun in my clothes and express themselves.

Could you tell us a bit about your label, Trelise CooperI first established my label Trelise Cooper in the eighties before taking some time out to be a fulltime mother. I re-established the brand in 1997 and have continued developing it into it’s current incarnation today.

You diffusion labels COOP and COOPER target different markets. How do they differ? COOP is aimed at a younger customer than COOPER.  Designs are fresh, edgy with everything from party dresses to directional daywear. COOPER is the lifestyle relaxed Trelise Cooper customer, it’s more everyday wear that’s accessible and more affordable than the Trelise Cooper Designer collection.

Which designs do you enjoy most in the new Spring 2012 collections? I love the First Lady silhouettes (think Jackie O and Michelle Obama) in Acid Tropicals and Macaroon Pastels.

Would you say you are hands-on in every aspect of your businessI am across all aspects of my business but not down to the micro detail of everything.  I do not have time to micro-manage.  I have an amazing team who are loyal, committed and passionate and they keep me informed.  The one area I am completely in control of is the design – from fabric choices, colours and silhouettes, to what goes into each collection.

Congratulations on designing for over 25 years! How do you continue to find inspiration? Inspiration comes from many conscious and unconscious influences.  Places or people that touch me in some way.  I am especially inspired by vintage fabrics with handwork not seen in contemporary fabric.  Embellished and bejewelled historical garments and construction techniques; iconic women of history (Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn); traveling and all the sights, the sounds, the landscape, the culture, the architecture; watching people; visiting art galleries; going to live theatre; all music and movies (both contemporary and historical). 

Your designs have received worldwide press coverage and have been worn by the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Sharon Stone and Julia Roberts... Do you have to pinch yourself? Sometimes yes, but the success comes out of a lot of hard work by myself and my team. It is gratifying to receive that kind of recognition though and it’s always a pleasure to see my designs on women I admire.

What is the best fashion advice you have learned over the years? Only buy it if it makes you feel fantastic.

Which do you prefer...
Soft, flowing material or straight sharp lines?  
Soft flowing material with straight sharp lines.

Belts, bags, sunglasses or jewellery? Bags and sunglasses.
Stilettos, wedges or flats? Stilettos.
Colour blocking or clashing prints? Clashing prints.
Dewy soft makeup or bold lips? Both.

Who would you most love to see wearing Trelise Cooper and why? Rosie Huntington Whiteley. She’s such a beautiful girl and has a similar feminine aesthetic to my label.

Trelise, what makes you feel Spoilt? Visiting my house in France and collecting/buying historical pieces from the vide greniers (village markets).

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