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Founder of World of WearableArt Limited (WOW), Dame Suzie Moncrieff, and her sister and co-owner Heather Palmer, have announced the sale of WOW to STILL, a family-owned New Zealand company.

The change of ownership, which takes effect 29 November, will not change the structure, staffing or day to day operations of the company. Nor will it affect the recent renewal of WOW’s agreement with WellingtonNZ confirming the WOW Awards Show will continue to be hosted in the capital, its artistic home since 2005.

Announcing the sale, Dame Suzie said she is delighted to have found the ideal kaitiaki for WOW and after three and a half decades it is the right time for the sisters to bring in new guardians who will continue to foster WOW’s development and realisation of her creative vision.

“WOW for me has been an exciting and fulfilling adventure. Heather and I have worked so hard over the past 35 years, sometimes against the odds. The covid years were immensely challenging and we realised it was time to step back, time for a reset for us and for WOW.

I am so immensely proud of what has been achieved over those years and excited for the creative expansion that lies ahead for WOW. I have always had big dreams for WOW, right from the start I saw the show as spectacular, inspirational and awe inspiring. That vision is shared by the new owners and I have every confidence that STILL’s aligned values, connections to the wider arts ecosystem and long term focus will enable WOW to thrive for generations to come.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the thousands of people and businesses who have been involved over the past 35 years, who have so passionately believed in my dream and made it their own. I couldn’t have achieved it without them” says Dame Suzie.

Three people standing in front of garments
Dame Suzie Moncrieff (left), Hideaki Fukutake (centre), Heather Palmer (right)

STILL is owned by Hideaki Fukutake whose family has a long history of nurturing arts and culture projects that build community wellbeing. Best known for creating the Benesse Art Site at Naoshima, the family became New Zealand residents and citizens in 2009.

STILL founder Hideaki Fukutake says the company is very aware that the acquisition of WOW carries significant cultural responsibility.

“The World of WearableArt is a New Zealand treasure. We know how important WOW is to New Zealand and we are passionate about ensuring it lasts well into the future – for at least another 35 years and beyond. For STILL this is about protecting a creative treasure for future generations of New Zealanders and making a long term contribution to creativity and culture in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Mr Fukutake.

WOW Ltd Chair, Sarah Smith, says STILL’s unique long term vision and commitment is rare and exciting for WOW.

“We are energised about what this means for WOW’s sustainable future. This is a significant milestone for the company, that protects our creative culture and ensures we will remain grounded in New Zealand while enabling WOW to continue on its path of delivering extraordinary content,” she said.

Created by Dame Suzie in Nelson in 1987, WOW is the world’s leading wearable art competition which attracts entries from around the world and culminates in a spectacular theatrical stage show held in Wellington.

While Dame Suzie and Heather are bowing out as owners they won’t be completely exiting the WOW stage, as they will continue their active association in ongoing roles as WOW Ambassadors; Suzie will continue as resident judge and Heather in a mentoring role.

“After two difficult years having to cancel WOW shows, it was wonderful to see the resounding success of the WOW Awards Show this year, we sold out and the audiences loved it. Our 2023 Competition is now well underway with registrations flowing in, so we are business as usual as we prepare for next year’s show” says Dame Suzie.

The announcement of new ownership and the exciting opportunities this opens up have been positively received by stakeholders.

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau says WOW is at the heart of Wellington’s vibrancy and creativity, and a significant contributor to the local economy.

“I am delighted that this taonga is in safe hands, excited for what the future holds for WOW, and comforted to know that its future in Wellington is secure.”

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