Kiwi fash­ion star uses visit to ex­plore Nel­son con­nec­tion

Nelson Mail - - News - Sa­man­tha Gee sa­man­tha.gee@stuff.co.nz

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.’’

BRADEN FASTIER / NEL­SON MAIL

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.

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