Since it was established in 1987 WOW has embraced the worlds of art and design, running an international competition that culminates in a spectacular theatrical performance each year. The exhilarating WOW Show is a visual feast for audiences and an opportunity for designers to be recognised and celebrated on the world stage.
Nelson sculptor Suzie Moncrieff conceived the idea of WOW where she challenged designers to take art off the wall and adorn the body. The inaugural WOW Show unfolded at Nelson's William Higgins Gallery, beneath a rain-soaked marquee, captivating an audience of 200 individuals with its visionary display.
Driven by its soaring popularity, the WOW Show relocated from a rural venue to Nelson's largest event facility, Trafalgar Centre. The move allowed the show to accommodate a full house of 2,000 people, delighting an enthusiastic audience with its captivating spectacle.
The museum exhibited award-winning WOW garments alongside New Zealand's largest private classic car collection. Its galleries showcased previous WOW Show garments, allowing close-up appreciation of intricate wearable art. Unfortunately, the museum closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To facilitate WOW's creative and commercial growth, the show relocated from Trafalgar Centre, Nelson to TSB Arena, Wellington. WOW HQ remained in Nelson. The move resulted in a 60% surge in audience size, reaching 28,000 attendees in the first year at Wellington.
Following appointment as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998 for service to the arts and tourism, Suzie Moncrieff received a Dame Companion of the same order in 2012, for service to the arts.
From 2012 to 2014, WOW’s OFF THE WALL exhibition toured nationally to six cities in Aotearoa, with a total visitation of 315,000 people.
From 2015 to 2019, WOW toured an international exhibition of 32 award-winning garments to Australia, Hawaii, USA (Seattle, Massachusetts, Colorado Springs) & Russia. Total visitation of the international exhibition exceeded 648,000 people.
The 2018 show was a magnificent celebration of the first 30 years of WOW. It included a Retrospective Section featuring garments and characters from previous WOW shows and centred around a young girl on a swing symbolising WOW Founder, Dame Suzie Moncrieff when she was a child.
After the 2020 WOW Show was cancelled due to COVID-19, an exhibition was created in its stead: WOW Up Close exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand in Wellington. Running from Dec 2020 to Feb 2021, featuring 38 works of wearable art, the immersive exhibition was visited by over 37,000 people.
WOW mesmerised its largest audience ever, with over 63,000 experiencing the magic across the three-week show season.
WOW's sustainable future is secured as founders Dame Suzie Moncrieff and Heather Palmer announce its sale to STILL, a family-owned NZ company.