Traditional rules don’t apply, as the World of WearableArt Awards become a global phenomenon

Gina Fairley

With a prize pool of $187,500 (NZD), as well as exclusive designer opportunities in Canada, the USA and New Zealand, join the vanguard of wearable art and push your designs to the edge.
Traditional rules don’t apply, as the World of WearableArt Awards become a global phenomenon

Mechanical Revolution by Luo Fan, Donghua University, China; courtesy the artist

The boundaries between art, design and fashion have increasingly blurred in recent decades. The event that perhaps best typifies this shift is the New Zealand-based World of WearableArt Awards (WOW), which unites these once-disparate fields in a theatrical performance, tour, and museum exhibition.  

Heather Palmer, Competition Director, described WOW as a platform where ‘the traditional rules don’t apply’, adding that it is also ‘an outlet where creative expectations are defied’.

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‘For 30 years, we’ve been driven to break down the expected boundaries of these worlds and see what is possible when all worlds collide … and consequently, designers go on to be innovators in their chosen fields, continuing to create cutting-edge work and question the traditions and expectations of the industry,’ explained Palmer.

WOW has grown into a global phenomenon, with works submitted from designers in over 40 countries and are brought to life on stage in front of a combined audience of over 60,000 people.

Today the Awards offer a total prize pool of $187,500 (NZD), as well as three exclusive designer opportunities for winners in the USA, Canada and New Zealand – a far cry from WOW’s modest beginnings.

The World of WearableArt Awards first began under a rain-soaked marquee in a rural co-operative art gallery, and since has grown into an internationally renowned competition,’ Palmer explained.

She noted that the Awards are an important platform for emerging designers, allowing them to showcase their talents and build their professional portfolios, while encouraging established designers to set their imaginations free and explore new creative possibilities.

Entries are now open for the 2019 World of WearableArt Awards. For more information about the competition visit www.worldofwearableart.com/competition

Ajaw Eamanom by David Walker (United States); courtesy the artist

Champions of new design break outside the silos

Palmer said that when designers first enter the World of WearableArt Awards, the feedback has been that they feel they have ‘finally found a home for their work that doesn’t quite fit into one of the “traditional” worlds or industries’.

‘Their work isn’t explicitly fashion, nor is it quite conventional art,’ she added.

‘The development of technology has been a huge influence on what we see on our stage today. From innovative uses of 3D printing, to experimenting with new techniques and extraordinary materials that weren’t even around 30 years ago – we’re seeing how our designers are embracing technology to push their imagination even further.’

Palmer continued: ‘As WOW inspires designers to be more creative, the designers, in turn, drive WOW to be more innovative, more extensive and generally, just more of everything.’

Echoplex Goddess of Reverb by Natalie Hutton (Australia); courtesy the artist

How you can catapult your career

In addition to a generous pool of prize money, the World of WearableArt Awards offers designers a range of networking opportunities and access to exclusive internships and residencies.

‘This opportunity to network with so many other designers from around the world is truly unique, it’s a community that continues to inspire each other, and that really helps in pushing the innovation in creativity and, of course, encouraging others to enter the competition,’ said Palmer.

In 2019, there are 34 Awards and a total prize pool of $187,500 (NZD) to be won as well as three exclusive designer opportunities:

Cirque du Soleil Invited Artisan Award (Montreal, Canada)

The winner of this Award receives $5,000 (NZD) and will undertake a four-week residency at Cirque du Soleil in Montreal, Canada. Flights from anywhere in the world and accommodation are included.

Weta Workshop Emerging Designer Award (Wellington, New Zealand)

The winner of this Award will have the unique opportunity to complete an internship at Weta Workshop, in addition to receiving $6,000 (NZD), flights from anywhere in the world plus accommodation in Wellington for up to four weeks.

NEW FOR 2019: The Residency Experience Award (Los Angeles, United States)

The winner of this Award receives $5,000 (NZD) and the opportunity to show up to five pieces of their work at the exclusive Residency Experience showroom in Los Angeles for a three-month period, during which time their work will be given exposure through The Residency’s social channels. The winner will also receive a travel prize of $2,500 (NZD) to enable them to visit The Residency showroom in LA.

Visit www.worldofwearableart.com/competition to learn how to apply.

Tips on being part of the WOW phenomenon

The World of WearableArt Awards (WOW) are open to anyone over the age of 18, as at 29 March 2019.  

‘Each year we ask designers to be inspired by one of the six worlds that will make up the World of WearableArt Awards. There are three recurring sections – Aotearoa, Avant-garde and Open – and three Sections unique to 2019:  Mythology, Transform and White,’ Palmer explained.

The garments are selected through three rounds of closed judging, by a panel of industry experts. Palmer noted: ‘As well as considering the performance potential, the judges are also looking for creative and original thinking in concept, construction and materials.’

In terms of tips, Palmer advised entrants: ‘Your garment needs to be extraordinary in detail up-close but also have a strong impact on the stage when in front of the audience.’

Garments are first presented on stage in the World of WearableArt Awards Show that runs for three weeks in Wellington, New Zealand. They then head to Nelson, New Zealand, to be exhibited at the National WOW Museum, with some garments selected to be displayed as part of the international touring exhibition.

For more information on how to enter visit www.worldofwearableart.com/competition

About the author

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years.

She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW, and you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.