Nelson arts entrepreneur Suzie Moncrieff has never been afraid to dream big but admits she is "blown away" to get one of the country's top honours.

The founder of the internationally renowned World of Wearable Art (WOW) show has been made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Years Honours for her services to the arts.

Dame Suzie organised the first WOW show - an outlandish extravaganza of wearable art, theatre and dance - to promote a Nelson art gallery in 1987.

Now about to enter its 25th year, the event continues to expand every year and attracts thousands of visitors and dozens of entries from all over the world.


Dame Suzie, a sculptor, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998.

She said she was still trying to get her head around the new recognition, which she said was a great honour.

"I'm pretty blown away quite frankly. It's something I'd never expected to happen in my life," she told APNZ.

"I'd also like to say that it's a great accolade to the hundreds of people who've been involved in WOW over the years. It would've been a very difficult journey without them."

Dame Suzie said watching the show grow from humble beginnings to today's successful phenomenon was her proudest achievement.

"From a small idea in 1987, to here we go, the 25th show next year - it's now become an international event, an iconic event for New Zealand and something we can all be very proud of."

Dame Suzie said one of the most difficult decisions was to move the show from Nelson to Wellington in 2005.

"We'd tried our best to make it grow in Nelson, and certainly we had great support from the Nelson community and continue to do so.


"But to make it grow into the huge event that I saw in my head, we simply had to go to a bigger city and a proper events centre where we could actually stage a show."

But Nelson was still the show's home, she said.

"I live here and of course we have the wonderful WOW museum in Nelson, where people can come and have a look at the garments up close and personal. So I've got a foot in both places - Wellington and Nelson."

Dame Suzie said there were no disappointments along the way.

"It continues to be a wonderful and fulfilling journey for me. The word disappointment has never come into the journey I've had, and it's been something that I've enjoyed immensely.

"I've loved the challenge - it continues to challenge me every year, so it's always new."

Dame Suzie urged young people starting out in the creative industries to not be put off by anybody or anything.

"Follow your dreams, no matter how crazy they might sound. It takes hard work, of course - without hard work nothing happens. So I'd say if you've got a dream, go for it."