Judges hail storytelling, artistry at 30th season of World of WearableArt awards

The 30th anniversary season of Wellington’s World of WearableArt (WOW) has made and celebrated history in spectacular fashion.

World of WearableArt in Wellington
27 September - 14 October, 2018

The 30th anniversary season of Wellington’s World of WearableArt (WOW) has both made and celebrated history in spectacular fashion as it crowned its Supreme WOW Award winner on Friday (28.9.18).

The top prize of the unique event, part international design competition and part multi-million-dollar theatrical spectacle, was awarded to a New Zealand entry that commemorates the centenary of the armistice that ended the First World War in 1918.

The garment, titled WAR sTOrY by sisters Natasha English and Tatyanna Meharry from Christchurch, was created using recycled objects such as old army and household blankets, salvaged rimu from demolished houses, old collected plastic toy soldiers, broken crushed red bricks and traded pieces of pounamu to create the garment.

WOW founder and head judge Dame Suzie Moncrieff said WAR sTOrY was “a garment that the judges described as an exceptional example of powerful storytelling realised through a work of art.”

It was a “compelling realisation of a thought-provoking narrative that is flawless in its execution.”

“We wanted to include as many tangible memories, using recycled materials that have been either collected over the years, traded or salvaged to help imbue this art piece with memories for past, current and future generations,” English explained.

English and Meharry took the supreme awards home for the second time after convincing the judges in 2013 with their garment titled The Exchange, a complex meditation on colonial and Maori shared cultural influence.

Runner-up for the Supreme Award is first-time competitor Nika Danielska from Wroclaw, Poland for her garment dubbed Ernst Haeckel's Bride. Inspired by the German 19th century biologist she created her piece using wire, paper, paint and glue.

She was joined by winners from New Zealand, the United States, Mexico, Australia, China, Spain and the United Kingdom. They took home various cash prizes and internships with leading creative companies such as Wellington’s internationally renowned visual effects company Weta Workshop and Canada’s Cirque du Soleil.

Another stand out was David Kirkpatrick’s garment Uplifting that took out the Bizarre Bra category. Using his mechanical engineering background, the New Zealander created the impressive undergarment, inspired by the GE X jet engine and 787 wing designs. Kirkpatrick used a small home 3D printer and fibreglass to create the bra, transforming his garage into his workspace.

“It was challenging creating a large garment using a small home 3D printer, and combining old and new technologies together by using computer design, but then finishing it by hand,” he said.

Launched in 1987 by Moncrieff in Nelson on the country’s South Island, WOW wanted to take art off the wall and onto the moving body. It has long been the world’s leading wearable art design competition and its spectacular stage show attracts an audience of around 60,000 people during its two-week season.

The theatrical extravaganza, which kicked off on Friday in Wellington sees models and dancers turn the garments into performance art, set in a series of six worlds inspired by the competition themes.

This year’s themes are Under the Microscope, Reflective Surfaces and the crowd-favourite, Bizarre Bra, along with the recurring Avant-garde, Aotearoa and Open sections.

The anniversary show is full of historical hat tips. Starting with footage from the first wearable art show, which integrated music and dance in order to promote Moncrieff’s rural art gallery in Nelson, it strides through magical wonderlands, mind-boggling light shows and Pacific beats. It lauds Kate Sheppard, leader and figurehead of the suffragist movement in New Zealand which became the first country to grant women the vote 125 years ago. And it commemorates the centenary of the end of the Great War.

But most of all it’s a fabulous, slick show that celebrates the creativity from designers from all over the world who dare to think outside the box.  

This year entries from 44 countries and regions vied for a coveted spot onstage and one of the 39 awards. A record 17 countries and regions reached the finals, showcasing designs by professionals from the fashion, art, design, costume and theatre industries alongside students and first-time enthusiasts.

By the end of this year’s season WOW will have showcased more than 4,800 finalist garments on its stage and has long earned itself an impressive reputation.  

“Athletes have the Olympics, actors have the Oscars, musicians have the Grammys, designers and costume creators have WOW,” Bob Haven, Professor in Costume Technology at Kentucky University sums it up.

Full list of 2018 winners

  • WAR sTOrY by Natasha English and Tatyanna Meharry (Christchurch, New Zealand)
    Winner: Supreme WOW Award Winner: Aotearoa Section
  • Ernst Haeckel’s Bride by Nika Danielska (Wroclaw, Poland)
    Runner Up: Supreme WOW Award Winner: Under the Microscope Section
  • Mind the Synaptic Gap by Grace DuVal (Chicago, United States)
    Winner: Dame Suzie Moncrieff Award
  • Feminine Hell by Xia Tian, Yang Mengtong & He Fangyu (Shanghai, China)
    Runner Up: Dame Suzie Moncrieff Award
  • Ancient Dreamscape by Kayla Christensen (Wellington, New Zealand)
    Second: Aotearoa Section
  • Tar’White by Ali Middleton (Wellington, New Zealand)
     Third: Aotearoa Section
  • Foreign Bodies by Dawn Mostow and Ben Gould (Seattle, United States)
    Winner: International Award: Americas Design Award Winner: International Design Award Second: Under the Microscope Section
  • Coccinelle by Svenja (Brisbane, Australia)
    Third: Under the Microscope Section
  • Underling by Gillian Saunders (Nelson, New Zealand)
    Winner: Open Section
  • WOW Tools of the Trade by Shelley Scott (Auckland, New Zealand)
    Second: Open Section
  • Ajaw Eamanom by David Walker (Eugene, United States)
    Third: Open Section
  • Uplifting by David Kirkpatrick (Waikato, New Zealand)
    Winner: Bizarre Bra Section
  • Le Spectacle! by Erna Van Der Wat and Karl Van Der Wat (Auckland, New Zealand)
    Second: Bizarre Bra Section
  • Abreast of Time by Janice Elliott (Christchurch, New Zealand)
    Third: Bizarre Bra Section
  • Echoplex - Goddess of Reverb by Natalie Hutton (Melbourne, Australia)
    Winner: Avant-garde Section
  • Axminstress by Kate MacKenzie (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand)
    Second: Avant-garde Section Runner Up: Sustainability Award
  • Tangka by Qiongwen Zhang (London, United Kingdom)
    Third: Avant-garde Section
  • The Wise Athena by Lau Siu San & Cathy, Sin Wei Chow (Hong Kong, China)
    Winner: Reflective Surfaces Section Winner: International Award: Asia Design Award
  • Hilandera by Julio Manuel Campos Lopez (Madrid, Spain)
    Second: Reflective Surfaces Section
  • Lady Ethereal by Dawn Mostow (Seattle, USA) and Snow Winters (Tacoma, USA)
    Third: Reflective Surfaces Section
  • Eye See you Fluffy Kōwhai by Tina Hutchison-Thomas (Christchurch, New Zealand)
    Winner: New Zealand Design Award
  • Absinthium by R.R. Pascoe (Blue Mountains, Australia)
    Winner: International Award: Australia and Pacific Design Award
  • Blue Star by Adam McAlavey (London, United Kingdom)
    Winner: International Award: United Kingdom and Europe Design Award
  • Quantum by Annabelle Widmann (Santa Eulalia, Spain)
    Winner: Cirque du Soleil Invited Artisan Award
  • Hide and Seek by Mingzhang Sun (London, United Kingdom)
    Winner: First-Time Entrant Award
  • Baroness of Vortex 6 by Laura Thapthimkuna (Chicago, United States), Stephen Ions (Biddulph Moor, United Kingdom) & Patrick Delorey (New York City, United States)
    Runner Up: First-Time Entrant Award
  • Shell by Zhang Qiyao (Shanghai, China)
    Winner: Student Innovation Award
  • Under the Skin by Louise Byford (London, United Kingdom)
    Runner Up: Student Innovation Award
  • Something Fishy: A Man-Eater Double Feature by Wendy Moyer (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico) Winner: Sustainability Award
  • 236 Maiden Lane by Lynn Christiansen (San Francisco, United States)
    Winner: Wearable Technology Award
  • Tangible Duality by Hanna Smith (Avoca Beach, Australia)
    Runner Up: Wearable Technology Award
  • Spirit Bone by Guo Xiao Tong (Beijing, China)
    Winner: Weta Workshop Emerging Designer Award
  • Kākāpō Queen by Stephanie Cossens (Wellington, New Zealand)
    Runner Up: Weta Workshop Emerging Designer Award