PAMELA WADE VISITED THE WORLD OF WEARABLEART SPECTACULAR LAST YEAR
Turning 30 this year, prepare to be WOW-ed by this annual fashion, art and theatre spectacular.
What a circus! The World of WearableArt Awards Show at the TSB Bank Arena in Wellington wasn’t at all what I was expecting. It was so, so much better.
Dreamed up by Dame Suzie Moncrieff in 1987 and growing year by year, we’re all by now familiar with the concept: art made to be worn, constructed with ingenuity and skill from a variety of materials. Some of us have even been to the WOW museum in Nelson, and marvelled at the intricacy and creativity of the costumes − but to see them brought to life on stage with all the theatrical pizazz of a big Broadway production is something else entirely.
In front of a nightly 3500 audience of mostly women − there was a sprinkling of wise men too who knew this was an event not to miss − a hundred minutes were packed full of colour, music, action and wonder.
Just like a performance from Cirque du Soleil (who provide one of the main prizes), it told a story in song, mime and dance. But although there were aerial displays and remarkable balancing acts
– on some of the highest heels I’ve ever seen – it wasn’t the extreme gymnastics we were admiring but the boundarypushing work of the world’s best designers.
It began with a crowdpleasing performance of
Poi E, drawing us all into the production, and then branched out into the realms of imagination and fantasy as 104 finalist designs in six separate categories were displayed.
As the dancers tapped, leaped and spun, the models stalked and glided around the runway-style stage in an intricately choreographed pattern, visiting each of five evenly spaced display points. Here they paused and twirled, to give those seated nearby an up-close chance to study and be astonished by each design − a good reason to splash out for a seat near to the action.
The materials varied enormously: Lycra, leather, feathers, rubber, plastic, fine fabrics, wool, metal, even playing cards and belts. Some flattered their wearers, some made them frightening, some concealed them completely.
Weta Workshop sponsored the Science Fiction category, which included monsters that were equally fascinating and horrific, creeping and crawling around the stage, menacing the audience. The UV-lit
Fly, Flow, Float entries were either mesmerisingly beautiful or the stuff of nightmares – it all depended on the designer’s vision.
These people are amateur and professional, old hands and newbies, half of them New Zealanders, the others from a dozen countries from Thailand to the Netherlands. What they all have in common is originality and imagination, plus the practical skills and patience necessary to construct these elaborate works of art − which also have to be sturdy enough to stand up to being worn and walked in, night after night.
The result is a collection of creations that are gorgeous and ugly, body-hugging and hiding, natural and artificial, colourful and monochrome, earthly and alien, frivolous and serious. Together, they make a show that is marvellously entertaining, full of clever staging, theatrical lighting, smoke and mirrors (well, glitter!) as well as undeniably fine art at its most creative.
Scenes from the red section. Above: A creation called Cordycephilia. Left: This design from Hong Kong was a runner- up in the avantgarde section. Above left: Kiwi Jo Marie Odger’s illuminated entry. Above: A winning design from the Netherlands. The international design contest celebrates its 30th birthday