September/October 2018 marks 30 years since local sculptor Suzie (now Dame Suzie) Moncrieff first came up with the concept of wearable art in a marquee at Wakefield, just south of Nelson. Torrential rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of that inaugural show’s audience, many of whom came along in gumboots.
In fact, the punters loved the event so much that it continued there for several years before moving to Nelson, where it proved to be a great boon for the city. But the production eventually outgrew Nelson, and the annual show is now held in Wellington, in front of an audience totalling 60,000.
We were staying in Stoke, Nelson, and driving by, the trademark red ‘WOW’ (World of WearableArt) logo outside the building hit us in the eye. Inside the National WOW Museum and Nelson Classic Car Collection, we talk to Maria who tells us the headquarters of WOW is still in Nelson, and currently (April) garment designs submitted for the world-wide 2018 competition are going through a selection process.
Final judging is done by a panel of four including Dame Suzie, and the panel has no idea whether the garments are submitted by a famous designer, a mum at the kitchen sink, a welder or an eco-warrior – they’re all represented! In 2017, 122 designers from 13 countries exhibited their works of art on stage for the whole world to see.