Cropped Tess & Kaleidoscope

The 2015 show was the second time around for Australian WOW entrant Tess Tavener Hanks – at 19 and already an award-winner, she’s practically a veteran.

“Simply going to the show is such an incredible experience so you can only imagine the excitement each designer feels after his or her work is selected to be a part of it,” she says.

In 2015, Tess was awarded the Student Innovation Award for her intricate masterpiece Baroque Living Room, a sumptuous velvet and braided piece that reflected the overtly decorated parlours of the Victorian era. Though she’d created wearable art pieces before and had success with those as well – one even featured on Australia’s Next Top Model – she says WOW is so well respected across so many disciplines that she felt privileged to be a part of it.

“My experience at WOW last year was truly memorable,” she says. “I was hearing stories from other designers who had entered upwards of five times, and the thought of being selected for a second time was an incredible honour.”

Tess had been working on her successful 2015 garment for about five months, while also juggling her studies at university. Using any free time she had between classes, she made adjustments and design alterations to ensure it had the durability needed for to be worn at the show.

She says being associated with WOW at such a young age has really helped her confidence in her design practice. That’s difficult to come by when you’re young, she says, and although at the show she was surrounded by designers who were more experienced and knowledgeable, just being a part of it meant she learned and absorbed a lot.

“We’re given the opportunity to engage with designers from all over the world, making industry contacts and meeting a diverse range of designers from varying disciplines,” she says. “As someone who hopes to work and study overseas in the UK or Europe it gave me a rich insight into different design culture.

“When you’re this age it’s such a wonderful time to experience and discover your own way of working or design style, and competitions such as WOW foster that,” she says. “You never really know the possibilities or experiences you can gain as a result of taking a chance.

“Last year I was only 18 when I entered and I had no expectations of what could come out of being involved. I’m honoured to be a part of such an incredible creative community and grateful that young students like myself are given the to learn, grow and to be surrounded by such tremendous talent on an international scale.”

– Naomi Arnold