Designer Trish Strongman talks CreationFest, wearable art and fostering fresh talent with Jo-Marie Baker.

Everyone knows kitchen tinfoil tears easily - but only Trish Strongman knows how to create a tinfoil dress that doesn't fall apart at the seams.

The Mount Maunganui fashion designer has spent countless hours figuring out how to strengthen tinfoil and turn it into a fabric. The result will be her spectacular entry in the inaugural CreationFest in Rotorua next week.

The artistic showcase comprises a wearable arts competition plus film and live performance categories. Five shows will be held at Rotorua's iconic Blue Baths starting on Tuesday.


"I've found it very challenging but also a lot of fun to see my entries come to life," Trish explains. "You need to think about how your creation will have stage impact and how it will look being worn by someone."

Trish, who walked away from her former career as a chartered accountant several years ago to pursue her love of fashion, has already tasted awards success.

Her Swanndri groomsmen caused quite a stir when she won the coveted Pasifika Bridal Wear award in 2009 - the first time a menswear item had ever been entered in that category.

For CreationFest she has produced wearable arts entries for the Metal Mania and the Sweet Dreams and Beautiful Nightmares categories. Her Aluminium Aristocrat is made from more than 50 recycled soft drink cans, tinfoil and metal chain. Trish says the inspiration came from watching toilet paper dress competitions and experimenting with tinfoil to use as a fabric.

"It's taken many, many hours to make a fabric that doesn't rip when it moves. But exactly how I've done it is my trade secret."

Trish's second entry, Black Magic Woman, is inspired by Egyptian mummy movies and the magic of the "undead".

Interlinked metal chains and soft drink cans will be draped over a black cat suit and papier mache mask to create a dramatic and intimidating silhouette.

"Wearable art is quite different from fashion design," Trish says. "It's borderline costume but it's not costume - it's fantasy. A lot of people find it uncomfortable to step away from creating fashion to creating fantasy and it's certainly something I've struggled with."

As well as running her own online fashion design school,, Trish is also a fashion design tutor at Rotorua's Waiariki Institute of Technology and many of her students are also entering CreationFest.

"Waiariki has a very strong design department but it's nice to see the students branch out from their normal focus and break out of their comfort zones.

"I find my students look at things in a very creative, innovative way and I'm really looking forward to seeing that level of creativity come to life in this wearable arts show."

CreationFest is a new event that builds on Rotorua's former Wearable Creationz to encourage interest in art, design and innovation and to foster up-and-coming talent in the Bay of Plenty.

Blue Baths managing director Jo Romanes is working with Rotorua Creative Arts Trust to resurrect the event, which was last staged in 2012 and attracted an overwhelming 6000 people.

"I've seen first-hand what an effect it has on people so we're really excited to relaunch it."

Jo describes the revamped showcase as a fantastic opportunity for Bay residents to be transported to another world.

"The level of creativity is mind-blowing. There's a lot of upcycling and we've structured the five categories so we would get lots of different materials being used."

There are five wearable art categories, attracting 35 entries from designers hoping to win the top prize of a trip to New York.

Such shows are always hugely popular, but Jo points out that CreationFest is more than just a fashion event. Short film and live performance are included with an emphasis on dynamic innovation.

"There are some wonderfully talented people out there and we wanted to broaden this event out and add different elements.

"So we have a lot of dancers, characterisations and comedic-style performances as well as instrumental music, singing and short films, which will be woven in with the wearable arts entries."

Cash and prizes such as a trip to the Melbourne Film Festival are on offer to winners of each category, and professionals have been brought in to mentor some of the younger performers.

"We really want to support youth in our community and give people like performing art graduates the chance to show what they can do."

Organisers hope to sell out each of the five shows with Rotorua's Blue Baths providing a stunning backdrop to the two-and-a-half-hour-long event.

"We have set about to create an innovative, dynamic and highly entertaining show, which will have room to evolve and develop over time," says Jo.

"It's going to be a fantastic community event and we would love to have people come across from Tauranga to see it. It's going to be a fabulous show."