WETA Workshop WOW-factor in World of WearableArt

When the World of WearableArt meets Weta Workshop in Wellington for three weeks each year, two magical worlds collide.

When the World of WearableArt meets Weta Workshop in Wellington for three weeks each year, two magical worlds collide in an eye-popping explosion of creativity and colour that leaves audiences breathless and begging for more.

Now in its 28th year and one of New Zealand’s greatest cultural success stories, the World of WearableArt (WOW) is a garment design competition attracting hundreds of entries from more than 40 countries.

Created by Dame Suzie Moncrieff and first staged in the small, South Island city of Nelson in 1987, it takes art off the gallery wall and brings it to life, wrapped around the human form.

Plastic, leather, metal, textiles, timber and even more exotic materials are mashed-up by extraordinary minds and multi-skilled craftspeople to emerge as wearable artworks ranging from the offbeat and outrageous, to the stunning and utterly surreal.

The World of WearableArt has grown into an internationally acclaimed art and fashion extravaganza, playing to nearly 60,000 people in 2016 and employing more than 350 cast and crew during its three-week season in New Zealand’s capital city.

Around 160 works are modelled on stage, each entry individually choreographed to present its story and inspiration. The show is the hottest ticket in town, and transports audiences into a realm with all the style, drama and fantasy of first-class theatre.

Getting in on the act is Weta Workshop, the Wellington-based special effects company that has boosted WOW’s wow-factor over the last decade. Drawing on Academy Award-winning skills showcased in blockbuster films such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit motion picture trilogies, the Workshop has been pulled inexorably closer into WOW’s orbit.

“Weta has been involved with Wow for many years with sponsorship and internships and for the first time this year the relationship extended to the creative development of the show," says WOW’s Chief Executive Gisela Carr.

"Weta are stunned by what they can do with us and we are blown away with what they bring to WOW. Wellington is the perfect city to operate from with synergies in size – everything is close and it’s not difficult to connect and foster the creative talents that this city is so proud of.”

Weta Workshop CEO and Co-founder Richard Taylor is only too happy to join in on this spectacular journey. “To have enjoyed more than a decade of creative collaboration with the show is an incredible honour. Several of our crew, past and present have been WOW® designers. This year we’re extending our participation into the show itself, creating a very special centrepiece for the stage.”

That centrepiece is an out-sized Bengal tiger, reclining on a rock, that appears on stage to serve as occasional MC. It is voiced by Jemaine Clement, the inimitable New Zealand comedian of Flight of the Conchords fame.

Weta Workshop also sponsors WOW’s Costume & Film section. In 2016 this category saw entrants design to a Baroque/Rococo Period theme, with the winning entry Baroque Star by Natasha English and Tatyanna Meharry of Christchurch.

As section winners, English and Meharry will undertake a four-week internship at Weta Workshop in Wellington, a highly coveted opportunity to be involved with big-screen special effects at a world-leading company. There’s also the possibility of full-time work, with several previous entrants having joined the Weta crew.

One such designer was the late Claire Prebble, a regular WOW contributor and the youngest ever Supreme Winner, who died in 2015.

During the 2016 season, Prebble’s Warrioress of Light were displayed in the window of the David Jones department store, a newcomer on the capital’s retail scene that also joined the WOW party by sponsoring the Avant Garde section.

Another six of Prebble’s garments were displayed at the show venue, the TSB Arena, adding even more colour and flair to a downtown scene flush with WearableArt-inspired shop windows, hospitality events, and WOW® devotees dressed to the nines.

Thankfully, all these lights, cameras and action aren’t just confined to the show’s three-week season, with Weta and WOW attractions open to visitors all year round.

At Weta Workshop, in the Wellington suburb of Miramar, film-fans can take fascinating behind-the-scenes studio tours to see props from famous productions such as The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Thunderbirds Are Go, and discover the secrets of how they are conceptualised and created. 

A short hop away at the top of the South Island, Nelson is home to the World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum. The show-stopping garment gallery displays over 70 fantastical WOW pieces, most selected from the current season alongside an array of outstanding artworks from earlier shows.

Background Info

  • The World of WearableArt Awards Show is New Zealand’s single largest arts show, now in its 28th year. Held in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, this truly world-class event attracts competitors and spectators from all over the world. 
  • Dame Suzie Moncrieff created the WOW concept in 1987 to challenge designers to take “art off the wall and onto the human form”. Designers come from all occupations, from many different backgrounds. WOW gives them the opportunity to be innovative and original, while not being bound by the constraints of commercialism. The only limit is imagination.
  • The high-energy WOW show tells a powerful visual story, featuring 133 designs from 260 entries with a 50/50 split between New Zealand and the rest of world including Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. 
  • Prizes include internships with Weta Workshop in Wellington and Cirque de Soleil in Canada.
  • The 2016 show season is another sell-out, as nearly 60,000 people from all over the world witness the breathtaking, two-hour spectacular of art, theatre, dance, and music.