It seems creativity runs in Lisa Vanin's family.

The Cambridge designer is a finalist in this year's World of Wearable Art (WOW) Awards Show alongside her sister Sacha Mail and sister-in-law Jenny Jack, both of Tamahere.

Lisa is staying tight-lipped about her design, but can say it is inspired by the native tūī and made from natural, raw and sustainable materials.

From left: Lisa Vanin, Sacha Mail and Jenny Jack. Photo / Brooke Vanin
From left: Lisa Vanin, Sacha Mail and Jenny Jack. Photo / Brooke Vanin

It's not the first time garments individually created by the three women have made the big stage.


In 2017 Lisa's 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.

Lisa Vanin's 2017 entry 'The Cloak of Pīwakawaka' Photo / World of Wearable Art
Lisa Vanin's 2017 entry 'The Cloak of Pīwakawaka' Photo / World of Wearable Art

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.

Lisa says she is humbled and relieved to be a finalist this year.

"So much heart and soul, time and money goes into every design, so it's always a relief to make it through," she says.

"I was mostly excited all three of us made it as finalists — it always makes for a good time in Wellington when we all have something on stage."

She says designing for WOW is a great creative outlet.

"There is also plenty of hard work, perseverance and long hours. It is quite magical seeing your entry come to life on stage and rewarding being a small part of something truly unique and spectacular."


Sacha Mail's entry this year is made from 30,000 hand-dyed cable ties. It is inspired by "New Zealand's ocean beauty" and comments on the need to look after oceans.

Sacha says she is a huge fan of WOW.

"To be chosen to be part of this amazing experience is very humbling and a privilege," she says.

Jenny Jack's entry is inspired by binary code and made from timber, blinds, printed circuit boards and wallpaper.

"My entry is mainly made from scavenged materials lurking in our bulging garage," she says.

"After countless building renovation projects there is always a plentiful supply of morsels which can be repurposed."

Lisa, Sacha and Jenny are among the 115 finalists from 22 countries to show their work at the wearable art competition, returning for its 31st season in Wellington from September 26 to October 13.

WOW competition director Heather Palmer says this year's finalists' work is outstanding, with the designers pushing boundaries of invention and scale, using diverse materials and progressive technology.

"It never ceases to amaze me each year the sheer brilliance of our designers' work and this year is no exception," she says.

"There has been such a high level of experimentation and innovation by the designers this year, using materials in unexpected ways to create bizarre, edgy works of art."

This year the finalist designers were presented with six design challenges, which subsequently form the six worlds of the stage show.

Three of these worlds are recurring — Aotearoa, Avant-garde and Open, and three are new — Mythology, Transform and White.

The garments will go through two more judging stages, where they will be on stage with choreography, lighting and music before opening night on September 26.