The art we wear 16 Oct 2012
Wellington is a city that prides itself on its ‘events’. The city council wades in to support quite a few. One of our biggest each year is the World of WearableArt Awards Show. As I have no history of tasteful self-attire and no known record of writing about haute couture, you should not take anything I say beyond this point with too much credence. Having said that, I do wear clothes, I study everything I lay my eyes on, and it’s a free world, isn’t it, I’m entitled to my own opinions, no matter how gross.
World of WearableArt
Round here the Awards are generally referred to by the initials WOW. Each one seems to be a wild theatrical production number in its own right. Whereas fashion shows in Britain and Europe always look like parades of insect-thin barbie dolls in straight skirts, the WOW entries often strike me as mentally-shocking creations from another world: on the street, they wouldn’t just catch your eye, they’d bring the traffic to a stand-still and trigger an Armed Offenders callout with backup support from the Zoo. I jest. The show is now so popular that it goes for a whole week, and 60 or 70,000 devoted followers of fashion pour into Wellington to see it.
We have a winner!
This year’s supreme winner was “Delight of Light” by Yuru Ma and Mengyue Wu who are fashion students from Donghua University, in China. It was an outfit made from see-through plastic, with bits projecting out and topped with long-tailed helmet. For some reason it made me think of a neon seahorse. The designers, though, said they got their idea for it from architecture. Either way, if they can build on this success, we’re going to hear (or see) a lot more from these two.
Wellington’s personal style
What I find intriguing about the WOW factor is the fact it has slotted in here so easily. I mean, over much of our history, Wellingtonians have had a reputation for wearing black, especially in winter. Even the Wellington rugby jersey is black, though highlighted in gold, with white shorts. Something had to give. Perhaps when we stole the WOW show from Nelson (where it started), we were deep down just wanting to ring a few changes in our own tired wardrobe as much as snaring a stunning money-maker for the Capital.
And to be honest, it seems to be working. There’s a lot more colour and individuality in what people wear nowadays. I think women have always given themselves more freedom that men, but today both sexes seem to be getting in on the act.
Style at the rugby sevens
This effect reaches its absolute climax each year near the end of January, beginning of February, when the international rugby sevens is held in Wellington.
Every day the Cake Tin is packed out with 35,000 delirious fans. It is de rigueur to go in groups of six or ten friends all dressed identically in fancy dress. Even in Lambton Quay, you pass groups of exuberant ‘nuns’, Elvis Presleys, or Hospital Theatre Staff. It’s not like a winter Carnevale in Italy; this is full-force hilarity in broad daylight. It creates a lot of spontaneous fun round the streets and in the stadium. As much as anything, the event demonstrates how transformative a change of clothes can be.
Excitement behind the scenes
I don’t go to the Sevens every year, but I do watch a bit of it on TV and always enjoy the atmosphere. Likewise, although I don’t normally attend the actual WOW show, I know plenty of people who do. This year, I met up with some inlaws, three exuberant sisters, at their motel on Mount Victoria one evening. They had decided to make a few days of the WOW trip to Wellington, seeing the sights and doing the restaurants.
Perhaps it was because we were just behind the Embassy Theatre [where The Hobbit will celebrate its world premiere next month], or perhaps it was just the excitement of WOW, but these three grown women suddenly transformed themselves (or so it seemed) into Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse and Madonna and erupted into a stunning rendition of “Sisters” that they had performed together (as infants) onstage in Greymouth in the 1960s. Their tingling, perfectly harmonised voices sent a shiver of excitement through every board in the whole building. It did make me wonder: “If this is just the crowd warming up, what’s the actual fashion show going to be like...”Photo credits: Martin Doyle - photos of Wellington street scenes.
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