A Cambridge designer has soared to new heights, winning two awards at the World of Wearable Art (WOW) Awards in Wellington.

The 2019 competition and show featured 108 finalist garments by 115 designers from 22 countries and regions all vying for 34 awards and a share of more than $180,000 in prizes.

Lisa Vanin won the New Zealand Design Award and was second in the Aotearoa Section with her garment Kaitiaki.

Lisa's entry, made from bamboo, copper and more than 700 handmade feathers, was inspired by the native tūī.

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"The tūī is unique in looks and sound and represents us as guardians of Aotearoa," she says.

Lisa Vanin's Kaitiaki won the New Zealand Design Award and was second in the Aotearoa Section. Photo / Stephen A'Court
Lisa Vanin's Kaitiaki won the New Zealand Design Award and was second in the Aotearoa Section. Photo / Stephen A'Court

"Kaitiaki means guardian, tiaki is to look after and kai is used for a person who does the looking after.

"We have one chance to look after our precious environment and natural resources to pass onto our future generations as their inheritance."

Lisa says the layers of feathers and garments represent New Zealand's diverse cultures and beliefs.

"The river of copper feathers cascading down the front also represents the water that surrounds us and is an essential part of our existence and ecosystem.

"The copper crosses represents our communities being pulled together and the patience and understanding required when such diversity is present.

"The Māori cloak is a solid and sturdy form, representing the warmth of our people and the community coming together as a united force to work as one."

Lisa started creating Kaitiaki last year for the 2018 show.

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However, with the deadline fast approaching she decided she needed more time and entered the garment in this year's show instead.

"It's always a tough call to hold on to an entry for so long but I've learnt my designs always seem to take five times longer to create than I anticipate."

Lisa says the creation took about three to four months.

"I would usually work on it in the evenings into the wee hours, and at times throughout the night," she says.

"It was exhausting at the time, but it felt good to complete and send away. To see Kaitiaki evolve and hanging out in my garage, to coming to life on stage was incredible."

Lisa says she was blown away to receive the two awards.

"There is some seriously amazing creative talent out there. To be selected is very humbling and it's a real honour to receive both awards."

The judging panel said Kaitiaki was "a beautifully-made, elemental piece that is minimal yet strong".

"We love the way it glides across the stage and appreciated the subtle references to New Zealand design history in the work."

It's not the first time garments created by Lisa have made an impression at WOW.

In 2017 her entry The Cloak of Pīwakawaka placed second in the Aotearoa Section at WOW. The garment was made of bamboo and copper and inspired by the fantail.

Her 2015 entry She Dreams in Colours was made from coloured pencils and in 2014 her entry Belle of the Ball was made from almost 200 tennis balls.