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First-time entrant describes the WOW design community as "whānau"

World of WearableArt

First time finalist and style icon, Felicity Bruce (Te Whakatōhea, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau ā Apanui) is a passionate, creative, hairdresser from Timaru, New Zealand.

Her 2023 design, Koha from Tāwhirimātea, was inspired by all the beautiful elements around her, from furniture design to architecture, but at her core Te Ao Māori is what shapes and motivates her world view.

As part of our 2023 Finalist Designer series, we sat down with Felicity the day after the 2023 WOW Awards evening.

How was the World of WearableArt Show: Beyond for you?

It was ‘BEYOND’ my expectations, and beyond my wildest dreams. I absolutely can’t stop pinching myself, it was so cool. I keep replaying it in my head. The music, the garments, just everything, the dancers, so cool. So cool.

What was it like seeing your garment onstage for the first time?

Well, the anticipation really gets you, and then when she finally came out, I was just like (Gasp). I thought I’d be quite emotional, but I was so excited. I was like, “Oh! There she is!” It was just stunning watching her make her way around the stage, it was impressive.

I especially loved the choreography of my model, Shikhia Ngatai, centre of the stage. That moved me. I’ll just be replaying that over and over in my mind, but luckily, I’m going to go and see the show again!

What’s it been like joining the WOW designer whānau?

‘Whānau’ is 100% the word. I feel like after today I’ve got a whole new bunch of people that I’ll be keeping in touch with, people who also don’t sleep, their brains are thinking constantly, just like me.

I was so inspired by the wow Designer’s Day session at Wētā Workshop, I can’t wait to try new things with hair. I really want to focus on avant-garde editorial hairdressing. I’ve been working with a fantastic team that loves creative editorial shoots. I love that with avant-garde I can be extra creative when it comes to size, shape and texture. That the looks could be from any moment in time or an unknown time.

Koha from Tāwhirimātea, Felicity Bruce, New Zealand
This was your first Finalist entry, what motivated you to join WOW?

I've been attending the show every year since I returned to New Zealand in 2011, and every time a garment came out, I had those wild moments of “Wow!”. I was so inspired, “I want to create something”. But I needed to let it settle in myself and find ‘the right thing’ to bring it to the WOW stage. I wanted it to be ‘the one’.

Do you have a secret weapon when you are designing?

Dreaming. I’ll make something, I’ll look at it, I’ll spend a long time just looking at it, then I go to sleep or have a nap and I visualise. I think in dreaming, it’s so much bigger, so then you can bring it back to reality and work out all the kinks. Sometimes I work out all the kinks in my dream, I go “Right! Get up, you’ve got to do this. You need to try that!”

What would you say to anyone thinking of entering WOW for the first time?

It will blow your mind. I think that entering the competition is only a fraction of the benefits that come with the competition, the show and everything. I have been inspired beyond my wildest dreams; meeting people, speaking to people, hearing about their garment creation stories. We all go through that process, so you definitely find your kindred spirits. I think it pushes you so far out of your comfort zone that the rewards are huge. You're like, “I did it. Can I do it again? I really want to.”

You can follow Felicity on Instagram at @fissity & @hedera.

Koha from Tāwhirimātea, Felicity Bruce, New Zealand

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