New Zealand Woman’s Weekly - - LIFESTYLE WEEKLY -

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

this year.

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