Translating Visions

Translating Visions

World of WearableArt is looking for artists and designers to to blur the lines between fashion and fine art with their annual competition. Speaking with Aesthetica, they discuss the global awards and what they’re looking for.

A: What inspired the start of the World of WearableArt Awards, and how have they progressed over the years?
The World of WearableArt (WOW) had modest beginnings; the first Awards Show took place back in 1987 under a rain-soaked marquee in Nelson, New Zealand.  Local sculptor and WOW Founder, Dame Suzie Moncrieff, first came up with the idea of the World of WearableArt Awards as a means of promoting a rural co-operative art gallery; by taking art off the wall and displaying it on the human body within a theatrical production.  A very radical concept at the time. 

Over the years, WOW has grown into an internationally renowned competition that attracts entries from over 40 countries each year.  Today garments come from across the globe and are brought to life on stage in front of an audience of over 60,000 people. 

Finalist garments go on a journey unlike any other competition. These works of art are brought to life on stage in the annual Awards Show, an extravagant theatrical show like no other, that runs for three weeks each year in Wellington, New Zealand.  Following the Show season, the garments then head to Nelson, New Zealand where they go on exhibition at the National WOW Museum.  There are also a selection of garments that are part of our touring International Exhibition, which has visited six museums in four countries around the world, and is currently in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

WOW offers not only prize money (a total prize pool of NZD187,500) but also profile and promotion of designers’ works, networking opportunities, and access to exclusive international internships and residencies.  Our world has continued to grow over the past 31 years and alongside that, the creativity of the designers has continued to go from strength-to-strength. 

Additionally, the World of WearableArt brings together a global community of designers; from the worlds of fashion, textile or industrial design, jewellery, architecture, engineering, sculpture and painting, or homemaking. This opportunity to network with so many other designers from around the world is truly unique. It’s a community that continues to inspire each other through their love of wearable art, and that really helps in driving the innovation and creativity we see each year. 

A: The Awards call for artists and designers to translate their vision to the stage – combining vision and craftsmanship. How do the Awards traverse fashion, design and technology?

When designers first enter the World of WearableArt Awards, they tell us that they have finally found a home for their work that doesn’t quite fit into one of the “traditional” worlds or industries – their work isn’t explicitly fashion, nor is it quite conventional art. WOW is an outlet where these forward-thinking garments can really come into their own, where the traditional rules don’t apply.

The development of technology has been a huge influence on what we see on our stage today. From innovative use of 3D printing, to experimenting with new techniques and extraordinary materials that weren’t even around 31 years ago, we’re seeing how our designers are embracing technology to push their imagination even further. 

Since its inception, the World of WearableArt has been embracing the worlds of art, design and fashion and bringing them together into a theatrical performance.  For over thirty years, we’ve been driven to break down the expected boundaries of these worlds and see what is possible when all worlds collide. Of course,  the advantage of embracing this collision is that we see work that is more exciting and more innovative, and consequently designers go on to be innovators in their chosen fields, continuing to create cutting-edge work and question the traditions and expectations of the industry.

A: What types of materials have the entrants used in the past?
The very nature of the competition, creating works of art that must be wearable, means that we are consistently blown away by the innovative choice of materials used in the garments. We’ve seen an extraordinary selection of materials over the years; from the inner tubes of bicycle tyres, to hundreds of metres of VCR tapes. 

It’s always impressive when designers work with more conventional materials but manipulate them in unexpected ways. The 2009 Supreme WOW Award-winning garment, Lady of the Wood(David Walker, United States) was an 18thcentury ballgown created using mahogany and lacewood, with 52 strips of maple and cedar for the skirt and topped with a wig made of wood shavings! Truly anything that is wearable art can find a place on the stage as long as it is original, innovative and well executed. 

A: Are there any particular themes that occur each year?
Each year we ask designers to be inspired by one of the six worlds that will make up the World of WearableArt Awards. There are three recurring SectionsAotearoaAvant-gardeand Openand three Sections unique to 2019; MythologyTransformand White. 

A: What have been some your stand-out entries, and what are you hoping to see this year?
There have been too many incredible entries over the years to single any out.  We never really know what we’ll see in any given competition year but what we do know is we’ll be astonished by what the designers dream up.  Just when we think we’ve seen it all, another entry comes in that completely staggers us!

Entries are now open for the 2019 World of WearableArt Awards. 

For more information about the competition, click here.

1. Image Credit: Sporadica, Renee Louie, New Zealand.