World of WearableArt Show Performers on stage 2017

World of WearableArt Show – the world’s leading wearable art design competition

The World of WearableArt Show® (WOW) is the leading wearable art design competition in the world.

We trace the history of the World of WearableArt Show from small beginnings in 1987 through to the current day. MoaTours has been offering our World of WearableArt Show tour for over 15 years, and it is one of the highlights on our calendar.

Images provided by and copy approved by World of WearableArt Ltd.

What is the World of WearableArt?

The incredible World of WearableArt (WOW) Show is held annually in Wellington every September/October for a three-week season. The garments are made from every conceivable material including rope, rubber, feathers, plastic and latex and the designers’ creations are brought to life in a spectacular, highly choreographed theatre production with sophisticated lighting and stage technology.

The World of WearableArt Competition attracts hundreds of designers from New Zealand and overseas, some from prestigious creative fields including film, fashion and art while others are amateurs. 

With three rounds of intensive judging, the panel of judges evaluate each garment based on its originality, creativity, innovation and construction. While the designers remain anonymous, the judges are given the name of the garment and a brief on its inspiration.

For more information about WOW see this article for the top 10 Questions about the show.

1987 – The first World of WearableArt Show

Creator of this incredible concept is Nelson sculptor, Dame Suzie Moncrieff.  

In 1987, she wanted to promote a rural art gallery, William Higgins Gallery, so came up with the idea to take art off the wall and adorn it on the human body.

With prize money of $1,000 entries rolled in although some entrants mistook the brief of “Wearable Art” and entered colourful knitwear. With an audience of just 200 locals the event was deemed a success.

Following image courtesy of World of WearableArt®. Garment: Wild Walker by Nikki Jiminez, New Zealand, 1987 Supreme WOW Award Winner.

World of WearableArt Supreme Award Winner 1987 - Wild Walker by Nikki Jiminez

1990 – WOW moves to central Nelson

The event grew in popularity until the show could no longer be held in the gallery, moving from rural Nelson to the city’s Trafalgar Centre. There was a full house of 2,000 people and it was the first time a set had been made especially for the show; a volcanic theme.

Seventy-two garments were entered, including one called Bacon Bitties (Lynda Duncan, New Zealand). With a frosted veil and breast plate of real bacon slices encased in resin, it showed the country the capabilities of the Nelson arts community.

2005 – WOW moves to Wellington

In 2005 the World of WearableArt Show was moved to Wellington.

“We had to grow the event and it wasn’t sustainable to keep it in Nelson. I don’t think the World of WearableArt Show would be here today if we had not made that step,” says founder, Dame Suzie Moncrieff.

Research commissioned by the company showed that for the event to expand and develop creatively and commercially it needed to move. More people could be seated each night at Wellington’s TSB Arena on Queens Wharf and, apart from the two pandemic years, the show has continued at the TSB Arena ever since.

In 2022 Dame Suzie Moncrieff and her sister Heather Palmer sold WOW to STILL, a family-owned New Zealand company.

Following image courtesy of World of WearableArt®.

World of WearableArt Show Performers and Audience at the TSB Arena in Wellington

2017 – Internationally renowned designer wins the Supreme WOW Award

Rinaldy Yunardi was a first-time entrant to WOW but is an internationally renowned designer boasting a twenty-year career in designing millinery and fashion accessories.  He submitted two garments into the 2017 WOW Design Competition, Encapsulate and Cosmos which won the Open and Avant-garde sections respectively. Encapsulate went on to be announced as the 2017 Supreme WOW Award winner. 

Calling his garment Encapsulate, it was shaped like a capsule in two halves and made from plastic ropes and LED lights. He says it was inspired by the universe being a well-ordered whole, encapsulating a system of thought, reason and emotions. His second garment Cosmos also won first place in the Avant-garde Section.

In 2017 the runner-up to the Supreme WOW Award was Refuse Refuge by Grace DuVal from the United States. She was also winner of the Sustainability Award. Grace used bicycle inner tubes pulled from the trash of Chicago bicycle shops and spokes to create an alien warrior woman. 

The following year Grace entered the Awards again and created another award-winning garment using the same unusual materials. Mind the Synaptic Gap was created using over 350 recycled bicycle tubes that were cut by hand into long, narrow strips of fringe, and in 2018 was awarded the Dame Suzie Moncrieff Award.

Following image courtesy of World of WearableArt®. Garment: Cosmos, Rinaldy Yunardi, Indonesia.

WOW 2017 Supreme Winner - Cosmos Rinaldy Yunardi

2019 – WOW celebrates 31 years

2019 marked the 31st anniversary show of World of WearableArt.
Since 1987:

  • 4,878 garments have adorned the stage
  • 770,000 people have seen a WOW Show
  • $2,430,000 value of prizes (cash and in kind) has been awarded to designers
  • World of WearableArt Award Show over $25.million to the capital each year. 

2022 – World of WearableArt Show returns

After a hiatus in 2020 and 2021 WOW was back again in 2022 and 2023. It is as popular as ever, with over 60,000 people attending the show. 

Intrigued? The only way to find out more is to experience WOW for yourself in 2024!

Experience WOW for yourself with MoaTours

In a nutshell, this is the history of World of WearableArt Show. An idea sparked by Dame Suzie Moncrieff over 30 years ago is now a spectacular theatre show and New Zealand is on the world map with a concept not achieved anywhere else.

Tickets are on sale, but for folk living outside Wellington take a look at our 6 day World of WearableArt Show Tour with accommodation, Platinum tickets, plus programme, all meals, including exclusive lunches in private homesteads out in the countryside, and transport – a fun and hassle-free way to experience the extravaganza.

Images have been provided by World of WearableArt Ltd, and copy approved by World of WearableArt Ltd. for use as of May 2019.

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