Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

New fashions inspired by New Delhi

By George Webster, CNN
May 15, 2012 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Trelise Cooper, pictured here at her home in Auckland, is an internationally acclaimed fashion designer. Having established herself with a range of popular boutique stores in the 1980s, the New Zealander went on to design clothes for the likes of Liv Tyler, Julia Roberts and even the cast of U.S. sitcom Sex and the City. Trelise Cooper, pictured here at her home in Auckland, is an internationally acclaimed fashion designer. Having established herself with a range of popular boutique stores in the 1980s, the New Zealander went on to design clothes for the likes of Liv Tyler, Julia Roberts and even the cast of U.S. sitcom Sex and the City.
HIDE CAPTION
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
New Zealand to New Delhi, a fusion of fashions
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • New Zealand fashion designer Trelise Cooper flew to New Delhi seeking new styles
  • Cooper was drawn to the city's tradition of flamboyantly colored clothes
  • She says that the journey helped her create a line of clothing fused with opulence and romance

Editor's note: Part culture show, part travel show, over six weeks Fusion Journeys takes six stars of the creative world to a location of their choice. There, they will create something new inspired by their experience.

(CNN) -- With a star-studded client list that includes Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lindsay Lohan, Julia Roberts and Michelle Pfeiffer, Trelise Cooper is an internationally known fashion designer.

Starting out with a boutique store in Auckland, New Zealand, during the mid-1980s, Cooper's ascent onto the fashion stage -- and the front covers of Vogue and Marie Claire -- is made more remarkable by the fact that she never received any formal training as either a designer or seamstress.

Instead, Cooper relied on her self-confessed "obsession" for detail, as well as a natural eye for fashion. "I was born a fashion designer" she says, and soon after she set up shop, her clothes acquired a reputation for their bold use of pattern and intricate stitching.

Cooper took up the "Fusion Journey" challenge to travel from New Zealand to New Delhi, India's capital. Although it's a city she had been to on business many times before, she says that she'd never allowed herself the time to study its traditional dress in earnest.

See more Fusion Journeys

There she was tasked with creating a new fashion line that would combine her own sophisticated modern style with the vibrant, brightly colored traditions of Indian dress-making.

In her own words, Cooper retraces the footsteps of her Fusion Journey.

Fashion designer Trelise Cooper
Fashion designer Trelise Cooper

Trelise Cooper: I absolutely adore the historical aspect of clothing. My ranges are full of influences from 19th-century French, English, even American vintage styles. So it's no surprise I have always enjoyed combing through flea markets in small towns and finding rare antique gems to steal some inspiration.

I'm also obsessed with detail, so when I find a Victorian gown or a 50s bridal slip that I like, then it's important for me to be able to emulate the exact stitching, embroidery or beading used at the time. In the West, unfortunately, most of our expert hand-stitching traditions have been lost -- the skills have not been passed on and the seamstress geniuses from the couture houses of Europe have not been replaced.

That is why I'm often traveling to India. It's one of the very best places in the world to find that expertise still thriving. From one village to the next you find whole families, generations, that have their own specialties of stitch work.

Honestly, I can give them any old historical piece that I've found and they will either take it away and recreate it almost perfectly, or they'll say "hmmm ... I don't know this stitching, but I know a place nearby that does." It's a fashion designer's dream!

So in one sense, I've been fusing my clothes with Indian influences for a while. However, I think this was the first time I've traveled to India with a conscious intention to create a fusion of styles: their own traditional dress with my more modern, western creations.

Walking through the streets, you see color combinations that you'd never imagine would work
Trelise Cooper, fashion designer

I just love the color and the vibrancy that is India. New Delhi is exciting and chaotic and noisy and dusty and smoky and hot. Everything is so full of intense color and I realized that, on a subconscious level at least, I've been influenced by Indian style ... In fact, when it comes to bold use of colors and the use of these rich, deep dyes, how can anyone deny the huge influence of India on fashion around the world?

Read related: Dancing to the music of love in Buenos Aires

Walking through the streets, you see color combinations that you'd never imagine would work. I recall a beautiful woman wearing a sari in bright, radiant pink mixed with a lime green print. I mean, lime and pink! It sounds garish, but on her, with the quality of the dye and the way the colors had been combined it looked absolutely stunning.

We made our way to a shop that I can only describe as a treasure trove of fabrics and other goodies. This was the place to find all the accessories, textiles, ribbons, bows, buttons, and beads that I could take back to my studio in Auckland to use as inspiration for the final creations.

There were ideas there, old and new, that I'd never thought about. Already I could envisage opportunities to use all sorts of different laces and braids, detailed examples of hand stitching, with some other antique dresses we'd picked up from a local supplier.

Much as I love them personally, I don't sell things like saris -- and I never would -- it's not a style that would appeal to the tastes of my particular customers. However, what I took back to New Zealand, was their techniques, their intense celebratory colors, their detailed embellishments, their expert use of beads and sequins.

I worked on the new line for many months, and these are the elements I hope I managed to incorporate into them. I think they've added an opulence, a romance. But I'll only know I have finished the creative process when someone comes in and says that, no matter what, they have to have it.

The garment takes them on a journey, and so my journey with the garment has finished.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Fusion Journeys takes six stars of the creative world on a journey to a different culture, where they will create something inspired by their experience.
May 16, 2012 -- Updated 1017 GMT (1817 HKT)
Punakha Dzong, Punakha, Bhutan
You sent us photos of a journey you had taken to another country, where you were inspired by a different culture. Here are the best.
May 17, 2012 -- Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT)
New Delhi's preponderance of market stalls, bazaars, shopping malls and street vendors, makes it a bargain-hunter's paradise.
May 15, 2012 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Fashion designer to the stars Trelise Cooper traveled from New Zealand to New Delhi to create an India-inspired new clothing range.
May 10, 2012 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
For tango lovers, a pilgrimage to Buenos Aires is a must. Here's our guide to this romantic city.
May 7, 2012 -- Updated 1603 GMT (0003 HKT)
Sarah Chang
Internationally acclaimed violinist Sarah Chang traveled to Buenos Aires to learn to play the sensual sounds of the tango.
May 3, 2012 -- Updated 0958 GMT (1758 HKT)
Lapland's winters are dark, cold, and long, but the summers are lit by 24-hour daylight, perfect for mountain hikes ... and midnight golf.
April 30, 2012 -- Updated 1618 GMT (0018 HKT)
Photographer Roger Moukarzel traveled to from Lebanon to Lapland to show how climate change is impacting the life and landscape of the local Sami people.
April 26, 2012 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
Copenhagen is known for its "New Nordic Cuisine," but the city has eateries for all tastes. Read CNN's guide to Europe's new food capital.
April 23, 2012 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor travels from India to Denmark to learn secrets of Nordic cuisine at the 'world's best restaurant.'
May 1, 2012 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Spread across South Africa's east coast, the former Zulu Kingdom boasts one of Africa's most eclectic blends of wildlife, history and culture.
April 16, 2012 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
American Thomas Hampson travels to South Africa to work with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the group who famously sang on Paul Simon's "Graceland" album.
April 9, 2012 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
tamara rojo
Royal Ballet star Tamara Rojo travels to Beijing to create a unique fusion of classical ballet and Chinese dance.
April 10, 2012 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
A women's drum troupe perform in front of Beijing's ancient Bell Tower moments before midnight on the eve of the Lunar New Year, 28 January 2006.
Beijing is a city where history and culture are prevalent -- but they always seem to be on the verge of extinction.
ADVERTISEMENT