Inspirational Series: Tamsin Cooper

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Most Kiwis have heard of the lovely Tamsin Cooper, a New Zealand designer who produces the most exquisite range of hand-embroidered clothes and accessories.

Tamsin’s latest collection, which celebrates the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 60th anniversary, just hit the catwalk at iD Dunedin Fashion Week. Her new collection also coincides with her own 10th anniversary in business.

We talked to the bubbly designer about how she began her business, her highs and lows, and her best tips for budding entrepreneurs in the craft business (or any business, for that matter).

Plus, Tamsin is giving Sweet Living readers the chance to win one of her beautiful evening bags (see below).

What sparked your business idea?

In 2002 I went on a fantastic holiday to Vietnam and was completely blown away by the amazing handcrafts produced by talented artisans throughout this beautiful country. I fell instantly in love with the hand embroidered textiles and silk fabrics that seemed to be overflowing from shops on every street corner. I was working in fashion at the time and had learnt hand embroidery myself as a child so I came home to New Zealand feeling very inspired.

How did your idea become a reality?

Tamsin Cooper velvet red purseSoon after my holiday to Vietnam I moved from Dunedin to Queenstown and had my first son Hugo. When Hugo was around six months old I began missing the stimulation of working. So I decided this would be the perfect time to launch my own business using the contacts I had made with a small family of tailors in Hanoi. I started with just a handful of wallet and coin purse designs which I had handmade in Hanoi. The hand embroidered detail was out-sourced by my tailors (who sewed each purse) to traditional embroidery villages in the north of Hanoi. I started my business in the back bedroom of our home. I was lucky that my husband Luke had a full-time graphic design business that he ran from home so his support juggling my start-up business and baby was amazing. I also had some initial financial and administration support from my father and sister who had a business making silk sleeping bags, also made by the same family tailors in Hanoi. Having my husband as the breadwinner for our family as I set up the business, gathered stockists and built sales was incredibly helpful in relieving some pressures and financial worries of starting a business.

How did you get your products from the kitchen table to buyers?

Tamsin Cooper velvet jewellery rollInitially I took my small range of purses and wallets (in a snappy black brief case) around design and gift stores throughout the main centres of New Zealand just prior to Christmas 2003. I made appointments by phone first and chose stores that I thought had an aesthetic that would complement my designs. I also had an order form and simple catalogue printed to give each potential store. I got a wonderful response and my first Christmas season went well. The following year I decided to expand the business further and chose to take a small space at the Gift Fair in Auckland. This was probably the best decision I could have made as potential buyers from all around the country come directly to you and you can sell them your designs without having to do a road trip around the entire country.

What was your biggest challenge?

Being sued in 2005 for trade mark infringement when my label was only two years old. This was incredibly stressful for a young business but a huge learning curve. I won the right to use my own trade mark in 2007 after a very public battle. It was a very humbling experience as we received much support from people all around New Zealand.

What were your five best decisions?

  • To take the plunge and start my own business in a field I am hugely passionate about.
  • To develop a signature look and brand.
  • To never give up when I was sued.
  • To develop an online shop.
  • To say yes to new opportunities and collaborations.

Best tip for start-ups?

If you don’t have skills in an important area, such as accounts or pricing structure, contract a business advisor to help, as keeping your margins strong will be the key to your financial success.

Greatest achievement?

Designing a collection to celebrate the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 60th Anniversary in 2013, the year I also celebrate my label’s 10th anniversary!


Tamsin Cooper is giving Sweet Living readers the chance to win this beautiful velvet vintage style shoulder bag in black. This bag is embellished with Tamsin’s fresh young doily design, beautifully hand stitched, and with a stylish vintage clip close. The bag is available in a fabulously fresh range of colours (see more colours here).

To ENTER THE DRAW, all you have to do is visit Tamsin’s website and tell us which accessory or fashion item you love best. Just post your comment below, at the bottom of this page. It’s that easy!




  1. I love the anniversary long black coats.

  2. Seriously love the peacock silk scarf

  3. Compact mirror!

  4. I love the Peacock Velvet Evening Bag

  5. The poppy velvet wrap!

  6. Sharee Sayers says

    So many lovely things to choose from, but I think my absolute favourite would be the anniversary short frilled coat.

  7. The Classic Coat in Floral Rose.

    Just beautiful.

    Happy days.

  8. Lesley McIntosh says

    Anniversary short frilled coat is my favourite but they are all stunning

  9. cindy kane says

    I absolutely LOVE the anniversary long belted coat – it’s stunning!!! as is everything else x Thank you.

  10. So many exquisite items to choose from – Tamsin is incredibly talented and such an inspiration! I think my top pick would be the Anniversary Long Duster Coat – such a timeless classic. Thank you for such a generous giveaway – my fingers and toes are firmly crossed!!

  11. Oh lordy – how do I possibly choose just one……..everything is so beautiful. If I did have to pick just one item it would have to be the “Silk Trench Coat”.

  12. My wife is a huge Tamsin Cooper fan and she would be totally over the moon if I won this for her – she totally deserves it as she never treats herself. My favourite item is the Peacock Velvet Clutch Bag – it is such a stunning colour.

  13. Fascinating interview and such an awesome giveaway.

    My favourite item: Frida Rose Velvet Tote Bag.

  14. I would love the anniversary long Black Coat,just divine!!

  15. Wendy Martin says

    I ADORE the doiley velvet vintage bag – its so cute!

  16. Natalie Jones says

    I love the Doily Velvet Handbag

  17. I always love the brooches and my favourite at the moment is the Frida brooch in olive green.

  18. Alison Cresswell says

    The silk velvet roses. Beautiful

  19. I love the peacock velvet hair ties!

  20. robyn cook says

    I love everything, it is just all so beautiful and exquisitely made but guess my pick would be the embroidered long anniversary coat. Oh what a dream to have that to pop on, would make you feel a million dollars.

  21. I think the Blossom Jacket is lovely. A real winner for this winter.

  22. Tracy Roberts says

    I LOVE the Thumbelina Girls Velvet Coat – just gorgeous!

  23. love the Anniversary Long Duster Coat

  24. Gosh, this was hard to decide, but I love the classical Floral Rose coat, elegant, simply and timeless.

  25. I love the Cosmos velvet brooches. Simply beautiful!

  26. My favourite is the Doily Velvet Clutch Bag!

  27. I love the pohutakawa velvet vintage shoulder bag

  28. The Poppy Velvet Wrap is absolutely stunning.

  29. Love love love the peacock velvet handbag, thank you

  30. Connor Baker says

    Love the Doily Velvet Vintage Handbag

  31. I love Tamsin things and have bought them for other people but don’t have anything myself 🙁
    I love her purses, especially Frida Rose Velvet Vintage Clasp Coin Purse!

  32. Mel Doogan says

    What gorgeous things! But the best is the Rose Corsage Velvet Vintage Clutch Purse. just lovely!!

  33. Sandy Hart says

    I’m in love with so many of Tamsins things but my favorite thing is the Camellia Velvet Headband – STUNNING!!.

  34. I so love the Cosmos Velvet broach, especially the pink one or the Blue
    And even only choosing one item was difficult enough

  35. I love all things Tamsin designs. This season I am very partial to the doily design and love the vintage coin purse

  36. Love the peacock velvet bucket shoulder bag! So beautiful!

  37. Who wouldn’t get down in a mud wrestling match to have that long anniversary embroidered coat! I would!!!!

  38. I love the Doily Velvet Clip Coin Purse!

  39. Shelley Gilmore says

    I like the Frida Rose Mobile Case.

  40. Anne-Marie says

    the Clemetis clutch – love the colour!

  41. I love the ENTIRE Royal NZ Ballet collection (as do my daughters) but my absolute favourite is the Royal NZ Ballet Jewellery Roll

  42. Ck Smith says

    hard to choose just one, but I will choose the Poppy Velvet Wrap in purple would add so much to so many of my outfits

  43. The Frida Rose Velvet Vintage Shoulder Bag is probably my favourite, although there are so many wonderful products to choose from, I would love to own any of them!

  44. Loving the Pohutakawa Velvet Handbag.

  45. S marquis says

    I would love to give the Thumbelina Girls Velvet Coat to my granddaughter it is beautiful!

  46. Leslie whitehead says

    I love the Peacock Velvet Handbag.

  47. My favourite is the Silk Trench Coat. Its beautiful and would be lovely for winter

  48. Amanda Cloke says

    I love the Doily Velvet Clutch Bag!

  49. Philippa says

    I love the Doily Velvet Tote Bag

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