"Athletes have the Olympics; actors have the Oscars; musicians have the Grammys; and designers and costume creators have WOW"
Bob Haven, professor in Costume Technology at Kentucky University.
Like a cocktail of Cirque du Soleil and Carnivale, every September an extraordinary Wellington spectacular morphs choreographed music, theatre, colour, lighting and dance to showcase a magical evening of fantasy, fashion and art. Called the World of WearableArt (WOW for short) and the brainchild of Suzie Moncrieff, a challenge was issued in 1987 to designers and artists to create a piece of art that could be worn and modelled. Now in its 25th year, the show continues to grow in scale and imagination with prizes in a number of categories.
With its rich arts culture and as the birthplace of this now worldwide extravaganza, Nelson hosts the superb and unique World of WearableArt and Collectible Cars Museum (the WOW website is here). Proudly showcasing the award-winning costumes from recent shows visitors can experience the creative talents and wild imaginations of some of the world’s finest designers.
The first gallery couples artistic music and lighting with a stage area and seating. The bizarre garments are beautifully showcased on a moving carousel of catwalk mannequins while other creations inspired by dragonflies, birdlife and sea creatures float overhead. A full range of avant-garde materials including shiny metal plates, bicycle inner tubes, sea shells, wire, bottle tops, light bulbs, papier-mâché, drinking straws, fruit, cutlery, fine silks, dried food and more are mixed to create truly spellbinding outfits.
Eye-popping WearableArt bras are especially notable for their creative approach covering a full spectrum of ideas from metallic space wear to bowls of fruit and nautical-inspired designs.
A second gallery is darkened to showcase a psychedelic array of fluorescent costumes. Akin to wandering the inky ocean depths, a neon gallery of exotic headwear, dresses, bras and winged costumes phosphoresce vivid reds, blues, yellows, violets and greens.
A theatrette (which I’d suggest viewing first though it is at the end of the galleries) shows clips from recent WOW events in Wellington highlighting some of the exceptional designs and living the founder’s dream of taking art off the wall to adorn the moving body.
Within the same museum is a superb collection of around forty classic cars. Presented as a celebration of automotive design and workmanship, iconic cars from every decade of last century are represented. Historic Fords, Cadillacs, Ferraris, Studebakers, Bentleys and convertibles (along with a personal favourite – a 1929 Packard) glisten with immaculate chrome and paintwork, all in sound mechanical condition. For the true car enthusiasts, a further 100 cars are accessible in a separate nearby warehouse, the collection rotated on a regular basis.
WOW is the word. It is little surprise that as the creative arts capital of New Zealand, Nelson has a museum dedicated to fashion and design but the World of WearableArt and Collectible Cars Museum exceeds all expectations. Ensure you stop by this airy modern two-in-one museum with a difference and enjoy a beautifully displayed showcase of spellbinding creative outfits along with a lovingly assembled collection celebrating automotive excellence. The gift shop is worth a browse for a thoughtful range of locally-sourced arts and treasures well outside of the normal souvenirs.
The costume photos are copyright of World of WearableArt and Collectible Cars Museum and have been reproduced with permission.
Image 1: Dragon Fish, designed by Susan Holmes
Image 2: Firebird, designed by Susan Holmes
Image 3: Superminx, designed by Simon Hames
Image 4: Ornitho-Maia, designed by Nadine Jaggi
Please respect the copyright of these works of art.