‘We want to take the audience into a magical world of dreams, a place where they can forget about reality and lose themselves in a journey of the imagination.’

Dame Suzie Moncrieff, 2013


In July 2014 we changed over a number of garments in The WOW Factor, an exhibition celebrating the wonderful, creative and inventive World of WearableArt™. The exhibition itself has been extended to 2 November 2014 so that this year’s show attendees can enjoy seeing a number of garments up close and personal. For those of you who have already seen the exhibition, there are nine new garments to be surprised and amazed by.

We’ve largely focused on refreshing the South Side of Eyelights, completely changing out three cases with more intriguing garments, while keeping the themes of Fabric Matters, Ideas on the Body and A Place in the Pacific. The range of materials used is even more surprising than the last group of garments.

Flowers proliferate in Fabric Matters, with a discarded bunch of roses and a Tipsy Tui drunk on the nectar of a flowering kowhai tree competing for attention. They are sombrely watched by a Samurai warrior dressed in recycled, embroidered denim.

In the case next door, Rodney Leong’s Conversations with Guggenheim has been replaced by another of his incredible works, Pectun Shedding Her Skin (2005). This is the second work in the exhibition fabricated from hundreds of zippers, yet it couldn’t be more different from Deborah Shepherds City Lolita. Rodney’s work is accompanied by another ingeniously fabricated work – a circular fan made from 1900 Formica samples laboriously stitched together with fishing wire so it pivots! A challenge to mount (as it must have been to model), the final effect is certainly worth it.

Things get even more humble, yet more incredible, material-wise in A Place in the Pacific. Deb Price returns with another intricately woven harakeke creation and Gillian Saunders, who hasalways admired the work of harakeke weaversbut thought their level of skill beyond her, gets in the act with a cheat’s version of weaving  – a knitted hei tiki-inspired bikini made from baling twine. Sourced from the shed, her preparation included removing all traces of ‘mouse, mud, and straw’ from the twine. The finale of the case is another somewhat daggy work – the 2007 Supreme Winner Rattle Your Dags by Paula Coulthard and Ursula Dixon. This iconic WOW® winner combines the glamorous styling of British design doyenne, Vivienne Westwood, with ‘all things sheepy’ – from the way merino fleece gathers on sheep’s legs to clusters of dags and ‘leg-o-mutton’ sleeves.

On your visit, also keep an eye out on the Northside. A piece of discarded technology has risen from the dead to take Totally Sheepish’s place. Te Papa and WOW® hope you enjoy the refresh. Remember, if you want to see WOW® in full flight, tickets are now on sale for the 2014 show.

Claire Regnault
Senior Curator (Creative Industries) July 2014

In 1987, Dame Suzie Moncrieff, a Nelson sculptor, read an article in The Listener about an annual wearable art exhibition held in Auckland. Intrigued by the notion of ‘wearable art’, she flew to Auckland to see it for herself, only to be disappointed by what she viewed as a display of ‘dreadful fashion’. Spurred on by the potential of the idea, Moncrieff decided to organise her own ‘wearable art’ event. In her call for entries, she challenged makers to:

To take art off the walls …
To adorn the body in wildly wonderful ways

In 2013 the World of WearableArt™, or WOW® as it has become nationally and internationally known, celebrates its 25th anniversary. For any arts organisation, let alone an independent arts organisation in a small country, 25 years of activity is a momentous achievement.

Te Papa is marking the 25th anniversary of the World of WearableArt™ Awards with The WOW Factor, an exhibition  in the Eyelights Gallery. Rather than just using one side of the gallery, we are using both sides to display almost 30 garments from the history of the WearableArt™ Award. So yes, it is time to bid a fond farewell to the model trains!

The WOW Factor is divided into two parts. The south side of the gallery is dedicated to a whistle stop tour of the history of the WearableArt™ Awards. The exhibition features the first winning entry – a tribal inspired garment by Nelson sculpture Nickki Jiminez from 1987. It goes on to explore ways in which Moncrieff sought to impart her vision for what ‘wearable art’ could be, to inspire people to be ‘brave enough … creative enough to design for another world where the only limit is your imagination’. Today, designers from all over the world have chosen to take up her challenge.

In the second half of the exhibition, we zoom in on the 2012 World of WearableArt™ show. It not only includes a stunning selection of brave, creative and imaginative competition garments, but also features sketches, models, props and audiovisual material, relating to the conceptual development of the spectacular stage show for which the WearableArt™ Awards has become renowned.

Claire Regnault
Senior Creator History (Creative Industries) July 2013