Trelise Cooper Is Unstoppable

30 March 2017

Internationally acclaimed fashion designer Trelise Cooper can’t put a foot wrong. She reveals how she made it to the top, and shares her best style secrets.

While there are millions of unstoppable women whose incredible achievements go unnoticed, one who provides inspiration for all is Dame Trelise Cooper, New Zealand’s most celebrated fashion designer started her career with a simple focus – to use her designs to make a difference to women’s lives. That goal has been the mum-of-one’s driving force as she has grown from a 23-year-old with no formal training opening her first store in Auckland, into a style icon. Today she boasts four clothing labels, has dressed celebrities including Julia Roberts, Stevie Nicks and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and has branched into jewellery, perfume, eyewear and even homeware. Dame Trelise has done all this while raising son Jasper 28, and throwing time and energy into great causes. The 59-year-old is the first ever female patron of the Return Services Association, and has worked with organisations including Breast Cancer Cure, Habitat for Humanity, Hospice and domestic abuse charity Shine. It’s perhaps little wonder she was knighted into 2014 for services to fashion and the community. She took time out from her hectic schedule to chat to Ziera about what it means to be unstoppable.


Over more than three decades you really have been unstoppable – what motivates you to keep going?
I am deeply passionate about all I do. I love my life of fashion, I am constantly stimulated by new ideas and the creative process of seeing them come to fruition. My constant driving force is the transformative power that happens to a woman in a dressing room – ever searching for that garment that makes her feel beautiful, confident and elevated.

What is the greatest challenge you have overcome in your career?
My self-doubt – I have been plagued by self-doubt for most of my career. I am more confident with myself these days – but never over-confident. I always have in the back of the mind. ‘You’re only as good as your last collection.’

What do you think is the key to juggling all the project you have on the go?
Focussing on the absolute priority first and making sure that priority is truly a priority. I also have the most amazing support team right throughout my business – I could not do it without them.

Looking back at all you have accomplished during your years in the fashion industry, what has been your biggest achievement?
Having a vision and a big ream. Never giving up o the dream and creating a life that gives me choices and self-determination – also a life spent making women feel confident and happy.

What do you think it takes for a woman to achiever her true potential?
Self-belief – even with fear and self-doubt – and not waiting to feel confident before starting something. Doing something with fear in your stomach – and achieving it – allows for true confidence to blossom.

What makes you feel good about yourself?
Being able to be of service to someone else – whether that is through a charitable act or helping a woman fee3l better about herself. It is my experience that what you focus on you get more of. Therefore it is important to stop negative thinking and focus on the good and that which ou are grateful for. This is when I feel good.

Who has been the most inspirational person in your life?
My father (Joel Neill). He grew up poor, married young, and had children while still a teenager, but he was a big thinker, a visionary – positive, ambitious, and a great provider. He was always very generous.

How would you define great style?
Style is a way to say who you are to the world without speaking a word. Great style is a confident personality, grave and a kind, happy attitude.

What are the three essentials every woman should have in her wardrobe?
A dress that makes her feel stylish, beautiful and confident, a great pair of shoes that complement that dress and a good looking handbag.

Where will you be in 10 years’ time?
Still working, still relevant but with a great team that allows for longer holidays with my house in France.