New Year Honours 2014: Fashion on fire

By Heather McCracken, Rebecca Quilliam

Karen Walker. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Karen Walker. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The New Zealand fashion industry's growing influence has been recognised with three longstanding leaders named in the New Year Honours.

Trelise Cooper has been made a dame companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to fashion and the community, recognising her brand's achievement abroad and her contribution to many charities.

Karen Walker has been made a companion of the order for services to fashion design, and World co-founder Francis Hooper has been made a member for services to fashion design.

The honours come as Kiwi fashion forges ahead overseas - with the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a suit by Wellington designer Rebecca Taylor, Aucklander Emilia Wickstead (also a favourite of the Duchess) a finalist for a top prize, and Karen Walker named one of the world's most influential designers by an industry website.

Trelise Cooper. Photo / John Stone
Trelise Cooper. Photo / John Stone

Dame Trelise said she was overwhelmed by the honour - and the news took about two days to sink in.

"Now I'm really proud and I'm overjoyed. It's really amazing - but it did knock the wind out of my sails for a while," she said.

Dame Trelise is one of New Zealand's most accomplished fashion designers, and her Trelise Cooper brand has 10 flagship boutiques and more than 200 stockists worldwide.

She has been involved with charities here and overseas, including designing T-shirts to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Trust and in 2007 becoming a patron of the charity.

She led a team building a Habitat for Humanity home at New Zealand Fashion Week in 2009, and a team of Kiwis building houses in Thailand.

Other charity work has included Tomorrow's Foundation, which helps children in slums in India, and a group promoting links between women from developed and developing countries.

"I grew up in a family where being of service to the community and giving back to the community was a strong family value," she said. "I came from knowing when you give back then it's good for your soul, so I live my life that way."

She is one of two new dames companion and four new knights companion recognised in the honours. The other dame companion, Dame Alison Paterson, was recognised for services to business.

Former Christchurch Mayor Sir Bob Parker was honoured for services to local government and the community.

Sir Toby Curtis was honoured for services to Maori education, Archbishop Sir David Moxon for services to the Anglican Church, and Sir Peter Vela for services to the thoroughbred industry.

Ms Walker said her CNZM honour was a surprise, and an opportunity to reflect. "It just makes you pause for a moment and consider one's own achievements, which I don't normally do. I'm normally thinking 'What's next, what's next?"'

Ms Walker, who was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2004, has five stores in New Zealand and one in Taipei.

She has been an ambassador for the Breast Cancer Research Trust for more than 10 years and has produced one-off jewellery pieces and clothing designs to auction for the trust.

Her career has been dotted with "lots and lots of little successes", she said. "You've just got to take those moments and think, 'Well actually, that was really good. Well done'."

Mr Hooper said he was "blown away" by the honour.

"It's great acknowledgement for a brand and a team that has worked so hard, and I'm the lucky one that keeps the badge," he said.

Francis Hooper. Photo / Greg Bowker
Francis Hooper. Photo / Greg Bowker

Mr Hooper established the World label in 1989 with Denise L'Estrange-Corbet, who was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002.

The label has shown at fashion weeks in London, Paris, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Its designs are featured in museums including Te Papa and the Auckland Museum, which showed a major retrospective of World design in 2004.

"To me it's very humbling to be recognised for fashion," Mr Hooper said. "It's something I love to do. It's not work, it's not hard, I love it and I've done it all my life."

- APNZ

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