Like many New Zealanders who set off on their ‘Big O.E’ in their early 20s, The World of WearableArt™ is heading overseas – and, it’s not coming home for at least five years. Hand-in-hand with the Wellington-based exhibition production company, ‘Workshop e,’ WOW® is taking thirty-two of its most stunning garments on a travelling exhibition.

But before Passports are required, the exhibition is heading to Auckland for a four-month stint in an elegant gallery space within the Auckland War Memorial Museum; opening on November 21.

The entire production will then be carefully re-packed into two, 40-foot-long shipping containers for a Tasman crossing to Australia and Townsville’s ‘Perc Tucker Regional Gallery’.

Exhibition-goers are in for a lot more than seeing the stunning, award-winning garments up-close. At each museum and art gallery venue on its itinerary, visitors can take their place at a designer’s ‘work bench,’ where they can set to work designing their own wearable art garment. They can then dress a little cardboard model and pin their creation to a large display board or take their paper garment home with them.

The more technically-minded can play at being a lighting technician, with a mini lighting consol, which controls the lighting effects on a model-sized performance stage.

The exhibition’s installation experts behind ‘Workshop e’ are business partners and husband and wife team, Jeff Brown and Alizon James, and their nine-member team that includes an industrial designer, a model maker, a metal worker, a mount designer and various technicians.

Once set up in each venue, the WOW® Exhibition will cover around 800 square metres, says Alizon – better known as Az.

“We’ve made sure it has been built in such a way that it looks absolutely beautiful, every time it opens in a new venue,” she says. “Every single time it’s unpacked and set up over the coming years, it will be re-finished and re-touched, so it’s absolutely perfect.”

In creating the ‘furniture’ or set for the exhibition, the designers at ‘Workshop e’ focused on ensuring the WOW® garments would be the heroes of the show, she said. The entire display will be clean, uncomplicated and free of clutter, allowing the WOW® garments to provide the ‘visual pop’ for the viewer.

“There won’t be a lot of graphics filled with text, as we often see in traditional exhibitions,” says Az. “The runway of faceted platforms on which the garments will be displayed will be white, and the exhibition palette is essentially black, white and grey, so the only colour will be from the garments themselves.”

Each and every mannequin had been remodelled by ‘Workshop e’ model maker, Tony Drawbridge, so they no longer stand to attention, arms by their sides.

“Tony has positioned their limbs in ways that are more appropriate for the garments and the stories behind the garments. They’ve got a bit more personality,” says Az.

The Bizarre Bra garments will be magically displayed as though they are floating – no mannequins, no straps over shoulders – not a single fibreglass cleavage in sight; again, the aim being to bring total focus to the garment and its details.

When WOW® management first approached ‘Workshop e’ to discuss its plans for an international touring exhibition, Az says there was no need to “go away and mull it over.”

She and Jeff are both Nelsonians (where WOW® was founded).

“This was really special to me, because I remember going to see the very first garments that designers created for the first WOW® Show, back in 1987. They were on display after the show, in the old cob cottage where Suzie Moncrieff was trying to raise funds for the art gallery.

“I’ve watched WOW® grow from year to year and become an international design competition. I just love that it’s now going international with its own travels; that it’s being taken to the world.”

The tour aims to showcase the international design competition that is WOW® to prospective designers and audiences.