Trelise Cooper

“A work van with style”:

how the Vito fuels a passion for fashion.

Dame Trelise Cooper’s eponymous clothing brand has been worn on everyone from style icons, such as Stevie Nicks and Julia Roberts, to ordinary women who love to feel fabulous in her eye-catching designs. Her stylish brand doesn’t just rely on fabrics to grab your attention, though, with her custom Vito van often spied cutting a swathe through New Zealand. We spoke to the designer, covering everything from her storied career, to how her reliable and versatile Vito van helps her business everyday. 


MB: You’ve been in the fashion business for 35 years, since opening your first boutique in 1985. How did you get from there to here?

Trelise Cooper: I guess it started out with a big dream and desire. I did those early ‘80s American “you can have your dream” guru courses, and I sit here today because of them. It’s actually true! It’s all about what you think about. I did a really short pattern-making course and very quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I’m an ideas person, not a technical person. 


What drew you to fashion?

I was always on the periphery of fashion through my husband Jack, who was in the jeans industry back then. I did a lot of research… well, I did a lot of shopping. I had three businesses before I went into business in clothing, all lucrative businesses, so I could shop a lot, and I travelled a lot because my husband did. So I did a lot of international shopping ‘research’. I feel like that taught me what women want and how they want to be treated in-store.


Where did you first open up?

My first store was in High St. I was there probably five years. I also opened a store in Wellington. We did a lot of made-to-measure, a lot of private clients. I did the Gloss TV series, I dressed the first Lotto presenter, who was the late Kerry Smith. After we had our child, Jasper in 1988, I tried a year of him coming to work with me with a nanny which was good, but I missed his smaller moments and the things that make being a mother special, so I stopped, and we went camper-vanning around Europe for a year. 


Why was the Mercedes-Benz Vito the vehicle of choice for your fleet?

We are a Fashion House based on beautiful intelligent garments that are juxtaposed between timeless modernity and echoes of iconic classic design lines. The Vito is the work van when you want ultimate style.  We wanted something that our female staff would feel comfortable driving and parking around town but spacious enough to fit large amounts of garments and suitcases of shoes that we pack in for photoshoots and events each season.


What features of the Mercedes-Benz Vito caters to your customers’ needs the most?

We installed a roof railing that allows us to hang our garments, and they arrive at our stores in perfect condition.  We custom wrapped an image of an enlarged hand-beaded sequin bejewelling that always gets a reaction from customers and drivers as we travel through the streets of Auckland.  There is always a toot and a joyful wave!


How does the design of your Mercedes-Benz Vito reflect Trelise Cooper’s values? 

Our values are luxury, beautiful lines, quality fabrics, timelessness as is Mercedes Benz design philosophy. Both brands evoke an emotional response that is the inspiration and at the heart of all our design ideas.


Why do you love what you do?

I love clothes and how they make me feel.  I am absolutely passionate about the transformative power a beautiful garment can have on a woman and how she sees herself.  That power of transformation is my biggest driver each day and witnessing that on a daily basis with my customers keeps my love, inspiration and passion alive.


Content commissioned by Mercedes-Benz