For nearly 30 years, WOW Founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff has been obsessed about the WOW Awards Show for a simple reason: she truly loves it.
“I love it for the joy it brings not only to the audiences who come to see it but also for what it gives the designers who enter,” she says. “It has become my unquenchable passion.”
WOW started out as “just a little idea”. But even back in the 1980s, Dame Suzie, a sculptor, could see it as it is today: a spectacular theatrical extravaganza, showcasing the most amazing works of wearable art from around the world. For Suzie, the show and the garments became a 3D sculpture in themselves.
“In those early days, I was determined it would work, sometimes against the odds. In fact, I was without doubt that it would work; the vision I had was that strong. I loved the challenge of seeing how far I could push it and how I could make it grow.”
Garment credit: THE ETERNAL VERITIES, Chi Ian Ku, Hong Kong
Today, WOW continues to encourage the imagination, and Dame Suzie says the chance to witness the evolution of the show’s international stable of entrants is truly inspirational.
“Not only to me, but to all who come to see the show and the works at the National WOW Museum,” she says. “The wide variety of entrants is also testament to its ongoing success.”
To encourage maximum creativity, WOW has always been all-embracing to people with all levels of design experience. WOW encourages people to discover their latent artistic talents without necessarily needing art training or experience. WOW designers have always come from a huge variety of backgrounds: there have been fashion designers, parents, woodworkers, boatbuilders and architects, as well as textile artists, sculptors and painters.
“Anyone who is inspired can turn their dreams into works of art to adorn the body,” Dame Suzie says. “I believe everyone has a creative spirit, but that not everyone has the opportunity to discover it.
Garment credit: DRAGONIZE, Pei-Shan Lin & Li-Hsuan Yang, Shih Chien University Taipei, Taiwan
“The fact that it has mass appeal, and that the audiences come from every background you imagine, means it’s not an elitist arts culture,” she says. “This is what makes it different, we’ve created a culture of its own.”
WOW is where opportunities come alive, and many designers go on to have stellar careers in the arts.
“It’s a place where imaginative ideas are turned into reality,” she says. “We are all born creative – you only need to look at the artwork of young children to see that. But for some, this is lost along the way. WOW is there to reignite the creative spirit, and the innovation of each individual piece encourages me and others to explore this further.”
2014 WOW Show Moment
As the show has matured over its 30 years, it has taken on the mantle of a repository of pop culture, and recent exhibitions in Boston and Seattle have demonstrated this vast appeal to new United States audiences.
“I think we straddle the boundaries of the definition of pop culture,” Dame Suzie says. “WOW is accessible, unique and a culture of its own. It invites everyone to make.”
With the permanent collection now approaching 500 pieces, there is a lot of pleasure to be gained in revisiting or rediscovering past garments, many of which have become iconic.
“I believe WOW has a great future simply because it is accessible to everyone,” Dame Suzie says. “To witness the outstanding talent of our designers is truly inspirational. There is no innovation without creativity.”