Make a big difference to The Big Idea.  Help us tell the most creative stories.

Home  /  Stories  / 

2023 WOW Winners Announced

22 Sep 2023

New Zealanders have dominated the winners list at this year's epic World of WearableArt award show - including the newly crowned Supreme winner.

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 10.59.01 PM.png
Gill Saunders, Earthling at the 2023 WOW Awards. Photo: Supplied,

A World of WearableArt (WOW) mainstay continues to forge a remarkable legacy at one of New Zealand's most significant annual creative events.

Gill Saunders has been declared the WOW Supreme winner for the second time at a dazzling Awards show at Wellington's TSB Arena.

The Nelson local has been entering the awards since 2000 - when they were held in her hometown - and this is her 13th WOW placing, seventh award win, and her second time receiving the highly coveted Supreme Award - the first coming in 2016.

This year's entry - which claimed the Open category title - is Earthling, the third part of Saunders' wearable art trilogy which takes its inspiration from the rising popularity of adult colouring books. Promoting mindfulness in a “world under increasing stress”, Earthling celebrates earth’s natural wonders in a fun, vibrant, and beautifully crafted garment made from EVA foam, acrylic paint, and wire.

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 10.45.20 PM.png
Gill Saunders, Earthling at the 2023 WOW Awards. Photo: Supplied,

The 2023 judging panel of WOW Founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff, Arts Laureate Brett Graham (Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Tainui) and WORLD's Benny Castles state “Earthling demonstrated an unmatched sense of the unity of wearable art and impeccable craftpersonship. It is absolutely beautiful, joyful, playful and positive, and wholly global yet looks and feels like Aotearoa.”

Saunders is among 15 section and special award winners. There are also 12 second and third-place getters getting time in the spotlight and part of the $185,000 prize pool (Saunders secures $36,000 of it - $6000 for the Open category and $30,000 for the Supreme Award).

Aotearoa creatives have had a strong showing, winning four of the six sectional awards.

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 10.49.04 PM.png
 Joanne Van Wyk, Lena Van Der Wat and Erna Van Der Wat, Blooming Proof! Photo: Supplied. 

That includes the oldest finalists in the 2023 line-up in a real family affair. Joanne Van Wyk and Lena Van Der Wat (81 and 87) from South Africa combined with their Auckland daughter/daughter-in-law Erna Van Der Wat to use their crocheting skills for Blooming Proof! – an extraordinary extra-terrestrial to claim the Mars & Beyond section. 

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 10.55.13 PM.png
Kirsty and David Kirkpatrick, Groundbreaking. Photo: Supplied.

The returning - and iconicly popular - Bizarre Bra section was also keeping it in the family, claimed by Tuakau husband and wife team Kristy and David Kirkpatrick with a ‘digger bra’, titled Groundbreaking.

The winner of the Aotearoa section is a huge wooden wētā, Child·Hood by welder Craig McMillan, who took his inspiration from growing up on the West Coast.

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 10.52.21 PM.png
Craig McMillan, Child-Hood. Photo: Supplied.

WOW Head of Competition Sarah Nathan says, “The stories behind many of this year’s garments reflect a range of important social issues, making the WOW Show not only a brilliant spectacle but a heartfelt showcase of the human experience through some of the most outstanding pieces of wearable art in the world. 

"As ever, the judges had an incredibly difficult job. This year, as we watch and celebrate the evolution of new technologies, materials and techniques, there is something very grounding in celebrating a Supreme winner that is 100% handcrafted.”

Of the international entrants, first-time entrant Chiaki Shimizu from Japan collected three gongs for SAMURAI Girl -  winning the Avant-garde section, the Wētā Workshop Emerging Designer award (judged by Wētā's Sir Richard Taylor) as well as finishing runner-up for the Supreme award.

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.08.25 PM.png
 Chiaki Shimizu, SAMURAI Girl. Photo: Supplied. 

While the winners have been decided, the show will go on until 8 October, with audiences expected to flock to the capital to enjoy the visual feast.

2023 World Of WearableArt Award Winners

Section winners

Mars and Beyond  - Blooming Proof!, Erna Van Der Wat, Joanne Van Wyk and Lena Van Der Wat, New Zealand

Aotearoa - Child·Hood, Craig McMillan, New Zealand

Open - Earthling, Gill Saunders, New Zealand

Avant-garde - SAMURAI Girl, Chiaki Shimizu, Japan

Gold - Digital Ascension of Kitsune, Dawn Mostow and Snow Winters, United States

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.22.50 PM.png

Bizarre Bra - Groundbreaking, Kristy Kirkpatrick and David Kirkpatrick, New Zealand

Special awards

First-time Entrant Award - Oizys – Goddess of Emotion, Abhishek Chauhan, India

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.24.10 PM.png

Student Innovation Award - Flame Dance, Eva Chan, Hong Kong Design Institute, Hong Kong

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.25.29 PM.png

Wearable Technology Award - Virtually the Same, Dylan Mulder and Juliette Thomson, New Zealand

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.27.03 PM.png

Sustainability Award - Tears Unseen, Carena West, New Zealand

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.28.31 PM.png

New Zealand Design Award - The Golden Age of Queens, Georgia Chalmers-Jones, New Zealand

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.29.41 PM.png

Wētā Workshop Emerging Designer Award - SAMURAI Girl, Chiaki Shimizu, Japan

WOW Designer Development Award - Grace DuVal, United States

Dame Suzie Moncrieff Award - Futuristic Fashion Technology, Fatemeh Delkhah, Iran

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.20.37 PM.png

International awards

International Design Award – UK & Europe - Metamorphosis, Juliet Dodson, UK

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.32.13 PM.png

International Design Award – Asia - Shadow Warrior, Karin Chiu, Cathy, Sin Wei Chow, and Choy Yuk Nga, Hong Kong

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.33.59 PM.png

International Design Award – Americas - Digital Ascension of Kitsune, Dawn Mostow and Snow Winters, United States

International Design Award – Australia & Pacific - Birth of the Babel Fish, Lynnette Griffiths and Marion Gaemers, Australia

Screen Shot 2023-09-22 at 11.35.10 PM.png

International Design Award – OVERALL - Digital Ascension of Kitsune, Dawn Mostow and Snow Winters, United States

Supreme WOW Award

Winner -Earthling, Gill Saunders, New Zealand

Runner-Up - SAMURAI Girl, Chiaki Shimizu, Japan