Trelise Cooper says sorry for sparking racist row

A model showcases designs by Trelise Cooper at New Zealand Fashion Week. Inset: Trelise Cooper. Photos / Getty Images, Mark Mitchell
A model showcases designs by Trelise Cooper at New Zealand Fashion Week. Inset: Trelise Cooper. Photos / Getty Images, Mark Mitchell

New Zealand designer Trelise Cooper has apologised for featuring feathered headdress in her fashion show, saying it was a mistake and admitting her ignorance.

Dame Trelise's show, as part of New Zealand Fashion Week, featured "70s bohemian vibes" with models wearing native-American and Canadian First Nations' feathered headdresses.

The garments - which have deep cultural significance - quickly drew a backlash from show guests and online.

Gallery: Trelise Cooper at New Zealand fashion week

This morning the designer issued an apology on Facebook, saying she didn't have ill intentions.

"I genuinely respect and honour all cultures, races and religions. It was never my intention to disrespect another culture," she wrote online, re-posting via Twitter.

"It is my hope that through my mistake and ignorance, like me, people now know and are aware of the Sacredness of the head dress to Native Americans.

"To those who I have offended, I sincerely apologise."


New Zealand film director Taika Waititi was amongst those offended by the move.


Melbourne-based lawyer and journalist Di White took to Twitter to express her thoughts.


The message was re-tweeted more than 50 times.

White continued to slam Dame Trelise with subsequent Tweets.




Also on Twitter, Kiwi comedian Jeremy Elwood - who hails from Canada - made his distaste about the items known.


The items being worn as fashion statements have drawn criticism around the world in recent times, notably when US singer Pharrell Williams and reality television star Khloe Kardashian were pictured in the cultural symbols.

Cooper said she had seen feather headdresses worn as a "fun thing" on her travels in the US and Ibiza recently.

"It's a fashion thing and I don't mean any disrespect," she said backstage after the show.

Photos: Fashion Week: Day 1 runway highlights

Fashion Week managing director Dame Pieter Stewart appeared on TV3's Firstline this morning about the incident, and said Dame Trelise meant no offence with the garments.

"It was beautiful to be honest" she said. "It's a beautiful culture. Designers draw their inspiration from all sorts of things and she drew her inspiration obviously from the Indian culture."

Dame Pieter said that designers from around the globe used headdresses.

She said she would not be asking Dame Trelise to apologise.

In December, French fashion house Chanel caused controversy when it used headdresses and US lingerie giant Victoria's Secret apologised over its use of the items in 2012.

- www.nzherald.co.nz with Morgan Tait

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