Kiwi fashion star uses visit to explore Nelson connection
An ancestral connection to Nelson and the chance to showcase her upcoming range brought fashion designer Trelise Cooper to the region for a brief sojourn this week.
Cooper was in town to showcase her spring and summer collections with retailer Karen Jordan, but the trip also had a more personal meaning.
It was a quick getaway with her mother and sisters so the family could spend some together.
Cooper said she knew one of her ancestors was James Smith Cross, the region’s first harbourmaster, and she wanted to learn more about her family history. Her mother, Pam Neill, had never been to Nelson and also wanted to visit.
‘‘The family connection is really special, and it has become more important as we have gotten older,’’ Cooper said.
‘‘It’s very nice to find out these things and realise we had a part to play in New Zealand’s history.’’
Cooper has fond memories of her great-grandparents, who she spent time with in her early childhood. They were both born in Nelson but lived in Wellington when Cooper was a child.
James Smith Cross served for almost 40 years as Nelson’s inaugural pilot and harbourmaster, from 1841 until his death in 1882.
Staying in a villa overlooking Nelson Haven, the trip was a chance for Cooper to relax amidst an an otherwise hectic schedule. She recently returned from a three-week tour of Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo, where she was buying newseason fabrics.
Cooper said the visit was spurred on by an invitation from Jordan to host a fashion show at the Nelson Club.
‘‘I have a crazy diary, it is filled through to April at the moment, so I grabbed the opportunity to come here.’’
Held in conjunction with Cod & Lobster, the fashion show on Thursday night was a showcase of Cooper’s upcoming spring and summer collection.
‘‘I’ve been selling to Karen for over 20 years, so she has a nice following of women who like my label – and we have some long-time, dyed-in-the-wool fans down here, and it is always nice meeting up with them.’’
Cooper said she was now five seasons ahead in the design process, so the event was a nice chance to reflect on her current season.
The fashion designer has over 300 independent retailers across Australasia. She said she tried to visit them where she could.
‘‘My business is deeply personal to me, it is not just about designing dresses. I know that my dresses often go on special occasion, milestone journeys for women, and I feel privileged they would choose to wear me for that.
‘‘It’s nice to connect with people and hear what they wore and what they bought and what they have loved.’’
Dame Trelise Cooper, third from left, used a visit to Nelson to explore her family ties to the region with her sisters Dellwyn Levene, left, and Angele, and mother Pam Neill, second from left. Local retailer Karen Jordan Style held a special fashion show at the Nelson Club to coincide with Cooper’s visit.