Wearable of the Week #2

Models in full war paint and extravagant hairstyles strutted their stuff through clouds of dry ice in time to pulsating music… showing different garments including masks, hats and sunglasses, as well as more orthodox attire.

                                                                                                                       Peter Gibbs, The New Zealand Listener

The above quote comes from a review of the first ever WearbableArt™ Awards held in rural Nelson in 1987. This week’s ‘Wearable’ emerged through the dry ice, spear in hand, to win the first ever Supreme Award.

Wild Walker Studio Hero-01

Wild Walker by Nikki Jiminez, 1987. Photograph courtesy of the World of WearableArt

As The WOW Factor celebrates 25 years of the World of WearbableArt™, the exhibition opens with this inaugural winner. Although the ensemble is not as complex as today’s entries, Wild Walker has stood the test of time, yet also demonstrates how far the World of WearbableArt™ has come in 25 years.

When Dame Suzie Moncrieff started the awards in 1987, the term ‘wearable art’ was pretty loosely used. In 1987, Suzie had read an article about an annual wearable art exhibition held in Auckland. Intrigued by the notion of ‘wearable art’, she flew to Auckland see it for herself, only to be disappointed by what she viewed as a display of ‘dreadful fashion’. Moncrieff had imagined ‘wearable art’ to be more akin to sculpture as opposed to ‘arty’ clothing.

Spurred on by the potential of the idea, Moncrieff decided to organise her own ‘wearable art’ event. In her call for entries, she challenged makers to:

To take art off the walls …

To adorn the body in wildly wonderful ways

The results were mixed as practitioners grabbled to understand the full extent of Moncrieff’s vision. Amongst the many knits and silk painted garments entered in 1987, Nikki Jiminez’s tribal inspired costume for a female hunter and gatherer stood out.

It’s not easy to detect in the photograph, but the motif – perhaps a talismanic bear paw print – on the ‘silver’ chest plate is actually stitched rather than painted. The spear also features some lovely detailing, including a number of decorative drawing pins. Pieced together from a range of found materials, Wild Walker hints at what quickly became a hallmark of the World of WearbableArt™ – the inventive reuse of found objects and materials, and the joy in taking in taking a creative walk on the wild side.

For an inside perspective on the history of the World of WearbableArt™ don’t miss Dame Suzie Moncrieff’s illustrated talk at Te Papa on Saturday 21 September at 1pm.

‘Wearable of the Week’ is posted in conjunction with The WOW Factor: 25 Years in the Making, which is on display at Te Papa until 17 August 2014. For more on the World of WearableArt™ visit WOW® online.

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