New Zealanders have dominated the winners list at this year's epic World of WearableArt award show - including the newly crowned Supreme winner.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Bizarre Bra - Groundbreaking, Kristy Kirkpatrick and David Kirkpatrick, New Zealand
First-time Entrant Award - Oizys – Goddess of Emotion, Abhishek Chauhan, India
Student Innovation Award - Flame Dance, Eva Chan, Hong Kong Design Institute, Hong Kong
Wearable Technology Award - Virtually the Same, Dylan Mulder and Juliette Thomson, New Zealand
Sustainability Award - Tears Unseen, Carena West, New Zealand
New Zealand Design Award - The Golden Age of Queens, Georgia Chalmers-Jones, New Zealand
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
International Design Award – UK & Europe - Metamorphosis, Juliet Dodson, UK
International Design Award – Asia - Shadow Warrior, Karin Chiu, Cathy, Sin Wei Chow, and Choy Yuk Nga, Hong Kong
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
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