Be WOWed By Montana World of Wearable Art

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World of WearableArt Ltd. (2)

Inventive WOW awards entries often feature unlikely materials, from recycled wool sacks (left) to copper-foiled leather (right)

For many, the words wearable art have unfortunate connotations, smacking of models in body paint, posing self-consciously at pretentious art-gallery happenings and product launches. But that feeble sort of wearable art has nothing to do with the Montana World of WearableArt, which goes by the entirely apt acronym WOW. Its award show, held annually over several days in Wellington, New Zealand, is a fabulous event that's equal parts couture, choreography and craziness.

To describe the WOW awards as a costume competition isn't quite capturing it, but that's what it is in essence, with nearly $70,000 in prize money at stake. For this year's event, which runs Sept. 24 to Oct. 4, judges have chosen 165 designs from 10 countries, to be featured in 10 two-hour shows, each of which is a jaw-dropping theatrical performance. Dance, music, lighting, elaborate sets and of course the ensembles themselves attract a total audience of around 35,000. "WOW," says founder Suzie Moncrieff, "is a glorious rebellion against the mundane."

Entries are in several categories, from children's garments to clothes that can be reflected under UV light to create exciting effects. There are categories for clothes inspired by Maori culture and for deeply sculptural garments, incorporating pleating, wrinkling and crimping. Recycling has been a common theme among this year's entries, which include pieces constructed from used neckties, old sofa parts and worn-out bicycle tires. Canadian designer Angela Bright has created Let Them Drink Tea — a dress inspired by 18th century French court excess but made with tea bags and coffee filters.

"It seems a global recession has set people's creative spirits alight with fresh ideas," Moncrieff says. But going by previous years, fresh ideas is the one thing the WOW awards are never short of. See

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