It was my first time at WOW. I knew that I could expect a spectacle along with fantastic wearable art but I was unprepared for just how delighted I’d be. The sheer exuberance of the performers, the outlandish designs, and the joy of the winning designers made me clap my hands in childish glee several times during the show. I also got the giggles at several points proving to myself that no matter how sophisticated I pretend I am, a tongue-in-cheek dance routine will grab me every time.
Please note: there will be spoilers about the show in this post. If you’re going and don’t want to know – look away now!
The Supreme Award winner (and winner of the Open section) was Delight Of Light by Yuru Ma & Mengyue Wu of China. It’s a piece inspired by architectural forms. The translucent plastic components are slotted together, creating interesting spaces and layers within the piece. Very complex. It’s almost like looking at a xray. The head-piece swept out behind the model who said the whole outfit was surprisingly comfortable to wear.
Both of the designers were involved in the design that won the Avant Garde Section and was runner-up to the supreme award. (An amazing achievement considering that both are still at university.) This time Mengyue Wu was the lead designer and Yuru Ma the supporter. It’s called Revive and is inspired by the shape of a soldier’s armour. The piece was particularly dramatic onstage. In the media room after the show it looked shiny and slick, and was quite intimidating. Beautiful.
The first section of the show was the children’s section. This year the theme was ‘Conceal and Reveal’. The winner was a scary little number called Spider Feast by Chan See Lik & Chan Yuet Foon from Hong Kong. A poor little butterfly is trapped in a spider’s web, with the gigantic spider hovering over her death throes. The spider inflates and deflates, nicely echoing the way spiders appear unexpectedly in rooms. The supporting performance was a children’s play room complete with boxes and dolls (small and larger than life.)
The South Pacific section started with a group of warriors battling with the forces of evil. Some clever projection and crisp movement gave it a video-game vibe which I liked very much. This year’s winner was Marquise Rawahi by Beatrice Carlson from Auckland. It was a stately and elegant design.
The Illumination section winner was Shanachie For Lost Birds Studio by Jo Drysdall from Christchurch. A simple design and very effective on stage with the skull-like heads and waving threads. In the back ground dancers waved flexible rods. After the garments had finished parading, the dancers were even more frentic in their efforts. All while whooping and cheering. Very rave-like.
The Creative Excellence theme this year was “Visual Symphony”. This section of the show has a steampunk vibe with the musicians in outrageous dresses and the dancers kitted out in suits of varying completeness. They’d scurry after the models with microphones so the sound the garment made could be incorporated into the music. Gareth Farr was the conductor (and composer) resplendent in a corset and long skirt. The winning design was Shaker Suit by Erica Gray from Australia.
The final section was the Bizarre Bra. This is where the show became outrageous. My notes for this section contain a number of !! and . It had a comic-book sci-fi theme with rocket ships, dangerous female aliens and bold heroic men. So crazy. So awesome. The models were dancing around the stage along with the dancers. Animals were the winner on the night with the winner and the runner up both incorporating animals into their design. The winner was Epicentre Divas by Claire Third from Christchurch.
Thanks to all the designers, cast, and crew for a super night out. This year the entertainment was interesting and compelling but not so much as to distract from the garments. Dame Suzie Moncrieff said they create the theatre and then insert the wearable art into it. Based on comments about last year’s show, I think the balance was about right this year. WOW was over at the Hong Kong Arts Festival earlier this year which has influenced the number of overseas entries.
(There was a dramatic moment during the awards ceremony when one of the models misjudged where the stage went and fell into one of the open sections. A collective gasp went up from the audience and the presenters rushed to see if she was okay. She was moving very slowly but seemed to be fine. WOW is not just fun and laughter!)