World of WearableArt™

Featured images: Inkling, Gillian Saunders, New Zealand. Hermecea, Jan Kerr, New Zealand. Mantilla, Fenella Fenton and Jeff Thomson, New Zealand. Photo credit: World of WearableArt™ Ltd

The international traveling exhibition World of WearableArt™ (WOW) has arrived at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College for the summer, inviting visitors to experience the unexpected results of when fashion meets fine art.

WOW ®, New Zealand’s single-largest theatrical event is held annually in Wellington each September through October. Over the past 30 years, nearly 800,000 people have attended a WOW® awards show.

The overall challenge of WOW is to take art off the wall and adorn onto the human form.

At the heart of the competition is a unique platform for designers to share and showcase their creativity and inspiration. In the categories of mythology, transform, white, and other recurring themes, the ingenuity of WOW® artists paves a new path for the next generation of arts and culture, attracting entries from more than 40 countries each year. Artists’ only limitations are their imaginations, with materials that range from plastic to foam, metal to wood, and wool to stainless steel.

The international traveling exhibition, which is composed of garments that have competed in the New Zealand event over the years, provides a new experience for locals in Colorado, who likely haven’t seen anything like it before. Through the exhibition, museum-goers will see a combination of award-winning works of wearable art, view an audio-visual display of previous award shows, and have the opportunity to delve more deeply into the story of WOW®, the designers, and the culture of New Zealand, in interactive, hands-on activities in the WOW® workroom.

“This artistic and educational experience is very much inclusive, allowing visitors and the artists to dream big and procure magnificent works of art,” said Joy Armstrong, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Fine Arts Center. The workroom provides a space where people can try their hand at some wearable art design of their own and experiment with stage lighting.

Several artists only become known through the WOW competition. Among the 32 garments on display at the Fine Arts Center, Peter Wakeman of New Zealand, artist of “Chica Under Glass,” lists his day job as a professional cleaner with fabrication skills. Although not a full-time artist, Wakeman procured a smooth, sparkling, pink dress out of fiberglass and plywood all by hand. Wakeman didn’t use any molds and spent the time to put care and love in the piece, Armstrong said.

Wakeman is the winner in the 2013 Avante-Garde Section, the category that calls for experimental, radical and unorthodox works. The challenge in this category is to defy boundaries of fashion by creating a work that is cutting-edge, rejects the ordinary and is unique and innovative. Wakeman was also a runner up to the Supreme Awards in 2013.

“WOW celebrates a huge variety of designers and ideas. It creates a competition that rewards people for being brave with their creativity, while also giving something spellbinding and magical to audiences,” Dame Suzie Moncrieff, WOW founder said in a statement.

Another piece of wearable art is made completely of cable ties. “Born to Die” by Guo Xiao Tong of China crafted a piece that fully represents the patience, bravery and creativity the competition demands. Each cable tie evenly connected to form a tight dress and high-heeled shoes.

David Walker, of the United States, carved “Lady of the Wood,” — a magnificent wooded dress of mahogany, lacewood, maple and cedar. Walker won both the Supreme Award and the Avant Garde Section in 2009 with this piece.

No piece of wearable art in the WOW competition resembles another. The freedom the artists are given, combined with the demand for unique designs, create an abundance of unparalleled art.

The exhibition of the bold wearable art is on display at the Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale Street through Sept. 22. To learn more, visit