Dionne Christian is the NZ Herald’s arts and books editor

How did they do that with plastic spoons - the wonder of WOW

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From humble beginnings in Nelson to an event which attracts designers (and audiences) from around the globe, the World of WearableArt Awards Show is now 28 years old so, after all this time, what new and novel can designers possibly do?

Quite a lot, it turns out. The 163 designers, who have produced 133 garments for this year's show, demonstrate imagination is unlimited with a range of weird, wacky, wonderful and plain breath-taking outfits which leave you pondering, 'how did they do that with plastic spoons? Could I do the same with wire, paper and sheep-docking tags?' (No; I can barely sew on a button).

And forget about wearable art as something that uses only recycled materials, leading to a surplus of plastic bags haphazardly decorated with a few leaves and twigs. WOW is haute couture and genius combined. Laser cutting and 3D printing are leading creativity in new directions and those changes are reflected in what's on the runway.

But even the term runway is problematic because it reduces WOW to a fashion show when it's so much more. For starters, the models - when you can see their faces - look happy to be there compared to the grim-faced waifs who strut down the catwalks in conventional fashion shows.

While the outfits are the stars, they're complemented by a full-on show - part theatre, part dance - regarded as the most technically demanding in New Zealand. Where else will you see a giant animatronic tiger - courtesy of Weta Workshops and voiced by Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement - as a narrator who waxes lyrical about whether poet William Blake had the wording in The Tyger right?

Actually the tiger was a little distracting, but a necessary one. Theatrical boffins Mike Mizrahi and Marie Adams use the sparkling works of painter Rueben Paterson as inspiration to create seven worlds, each with a loose environmental theme. The closing act features dancers in drab beige, brown and grey reminding us of what a bland and boring world it will become if we allow flora and fauna - like tigers - to die out and don't continue to let imagination flourish.

What: World of WearableArt Awards show

Where & when: TSB Bank Arena, Wellington; until October 9

- NZ Herald

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