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People who have ever had the opportunity to attend this event will absolutely agree with me.
This show, a true Kiwi show of the potential of this small but proud country, has the world on its knees.
I had the privilege of attending the Opening Awards Night of the show to see the designers from 10 countries, with hundreds of entries of designs showcasing their talent, in the Wellington capital.
Although very interested in fashion, I never gave our school showcases of Wearable Art Nights much attention – my peers at primary school, and later at college, seemed very funny when we’d be on camp, and everyone were on their knees trying to design, fit and make dresses and other outfits out of the provided bubble wrap, cardboard, fabric, chicken wire, and other materials.
However, I am proud to say I have been hooked. This was my second year at the Montana World of Wearable Arts Show, and let me tell you it’s true that they say it gets better every year.
It all started out in the small town of Nelson of the South Island. Suzie Montcrieff, some 21 years ago, had a dream of taking art off the wall and putting it onto the human body. And today, this great show has become almost a trademark of Wellington’s, and in turn, New Zealand’s strong culture of the arts.
The Wearable Arts Show, with its 21st year has become a true international icon of fashion for the world. Featured in all New Zealand media, along with Time Magazine, and high fashions media such as Harpers Bazaar, it is truly a project New Zealand is very proud to have.
The show turned out, as always, a success. An intro by the guest appearance of the Topp Twins kicked off the night with their usual mischief while they outlined emergency procedures and the ‘PC’ rules of bathroom visits and a quick reminder to not use flash photography. Although the procedure was standard, and it was their first ever visit to the Montana World of Wearable Arts Show, once again, they didn’t fail to inject their humour and relax and prepare the large audience of the night, and the upcoming over 40,000 attendees for an amazing night to remember.
The Children’s Section stretched designers’ ideas and creativity to take their inspiration from what they could find in their gardens. An array of nature-inspired pieces, modelled by the very young children of Aotearoa, amidst a setting of plants, autumn leaves, and a large bird nest centre-piece lit up the stage to immerse the audience what was yet to come.
The ‘Patterns of the Pacific’ Pacifica section combined the rich cultures of Aotearoa and neighbouring nations teamed with the graffiti art culture, and hip-hop music and dance to show off the highly anticipated section that showed off colour, weaving, and patterns of the rich cultures instilled into the environment around us. This was also the section from which last year’s winning design came from.
Open Section is always a way for designers to show off their designs and make something out of nothing – with the starting point, literally a blank canvas of the human body – not even a theme was given to these designers! My personal favourite was Nelson’s Car Museum-inspired piece of a girl’s short dress with wheel in hand to reflect the shapes and curves of a car. Breathtaking! Among these pieces were a meteor-inspired piece, made partly of baby back packs (you would never be able to tell), which literally looked like a meteorite hitting the stage. Another was a dress made completely of EVA foam and aluminium, which made the dress look like it was made completely out of wood – the idea was to show wooden doors wrapped around the body, and it really did look like it too!
The Illumination Illusion Section was Suzie’s idea to let the audience pretend like they were in a dark box, with all eyes on stage. The UV lights were on full beam (note to self: don’t wear white pants in future) and the ‘Flot, Fly, Flow’ themed part of the show really did make you feel like you were in a dark box, with floating violins, butterlies, bees, shooting stars appearing out of nowhere, and other goodies that made you forget that there were people making this happen through dance and movement – all you saw was the illuminated objects.
Midway, two screens appeared on stage with a tribute to the past 20 years of winners of this show. It let you go back in time and pay tribute to all the designers that put in hundreds and thousands of hours of effort to make these pieces possible, and added to the excitement of the designs we were just about to encounter.
The Creative Excellence Section’s theme was ‘Fold’. What amazed me was the interpretation designers took from that simple little word. Some saw folded paper and origami, some saw folded shirts after a hard day’s work of ironing. Creases and shapes were in full play!
A crowd favourite – the Man Unleashed Section – always a crown favourite started with a group of Cat Women in a car covered with pieces of mirror, who started to sing that catchy ‘I Need a Hero’ song after their car ‘broke down’, shooting out pink steam, followed by a whole army of Supermen, and bodybuilders tensing their muscles to please the crowd. Among this, you saw the male designs, from Sir Lazy-Boy to the Da Vinci Dandies, all inspired by their given titles.
Avant Garde Section is enough said. This was truly a way for designers, like the Open Section, to spread their thoughts and go with the flow and close off the entire show. Octopus, the Womb, Horses, and a very amazing 19th century ball gown made entirely of wood were truly a creatively amazing way to close off the night.
The verdict of the judges?
After a full-on evening of fashion and design, many designers who had travelled from 9 other countries including the United States, and India, were proud to go home with an award or two for truly inspiring and making the show a success with their commitment and creativity.
However, the overall winner was truly a memorizing piece. Lady of Wood, carefully carved out by carver David Walker of the older generation took home the grand prize as overall winner, with his 19th century gown made completely out of wood from the Avant Garde Section. An entrant into the show for a number of years, Mr. Walker was all smiles as he left the stage with absolutely giant trophy and many other perks which will let him come again next year to showcase yet another amazing piece.
‘Tis the way of the creative world.
I strongly suggest you keep an eye out for this show and the up and coming designers featured in it, because it really is – a night to remember.