What weighed on my mind at the end of my last post is a competition known as the World of Wearable Art, or WOW for short. Last winter I constructed a costume and entered this competition. But first, before we continue my story will have to rewind and go back to the beginning, which starts with a explanation of what WOW is, and why its a huge deal.
The World of Wearable Art is the largest costume competition in the world and it takes place in Wellington New Zealand. It has quoted as being the “Olympics of fashion” because designers from all over the world apply. The competitors are comprised of people possessing all different levels of design ability; working professionals, students, and even gifted individuals who just love making costumes. The prizes and recognition for the winning designer is phenomenal. One designer or design team can realistically walk away with $40,000 or more in prizes. In addition to the prizes, the winner will be featured in multiple media platforms and be recognized by various international design companies. Because there are designers from all over the world, only a handful of Americans will make it into the finalists and have a shot at winning the top spot. But before I go into the prizes, I am going to give you a rundown of the rules and procedures every designer must go though to become a finalist.
The rules are simple:
-There are 7 categories, they all have a different theme, the designer must pick one or more to submit to.
-You can have 1-3 people per design team
-A designer or design team can submit as many costumes as they would like, to as many categories as they would like, there is no limit.
-No organic or food materials may be used to create your costume
-All deadlines to pass in work at different phases of judging must be met
-There are a few width, height, and size requirements regarding the actual construction of the garment
-Conceptually your garment must have a backstory or concept statement. They judges want to know the inspiration and reason why you created it, as well as how it reflects your personal skills as a designer.
-NO photos may be released of your costume until after the competition is over. This is for 2 reasons, 1- to keep the judging blind. The judges can’t know who made what costume until after the winners have been announced. 2- the costumes are featured in a show people pay to see, and opening night is the big reveal for all the costumes. If the designer does release a photo of their garment, they will be disqualified. In other words, I can’t show you what I submitted.
After observing the rules and submitting, the designer will go through 3 rounds of judging.
1- Preselection. Judged on a front, side, and back photo of your costume combined with your concept statement. If you pass this round of judging, you must mail out your costume to New Zealand AND it must arrive there before the deadline they give you. If you fail to mail out your costume, or it isn’t received in New Zealand by the deadline, you are out. If it gets damaged in transit, you are out.
2- The second round of judging decides finalists. In other words, round 2 determines what garments will be competing for actual prizes. This round takes place in New Zealand where, by that time, they have received everyones costumes that passed phase one. The costumes are then put on live models and sent into a room with the panel of judges. They are also inspected for quality construction. If the costume is in any way falling apart, you are out. Again, the judging process is blind. Your costume is presented with concept statement. There is no other information about the designer given. The judges then determine wether your in or out. If they decide your in, they proceed to officially decide what section you will be competing in during the awards show. Through this process your garment can be moved to whatever section the judges think it should compete in. If you make it past this round of judging, you are a finalist and are invited to go to New Zealand to the awards show. Recap- round 2 decides the finalists whose garments will be in the WOW show and therefor eligible to win prizes.
3- Round 3‘s judging happens right before the World of Wearable Art show, and determines who is getting what awards.
After the third round of judging there is an opening night of the show which doubles as an awards show for the winners of the competition. The actual show itself looks as if someone took the Cirque Du Soleil show, and added a runway of CRAZY costumes that come through the choreographed performances. In other words, this definitely NOT your typical runway show. After the debut, the show will run every day for about 2 weeks, and the costumes in the show will be seen by 5,000 people or more. This year The World of Wearable Art is the biggest its ever been as WOW it celebrates is 25th anniversary.
Naturally, with big anniversary celebration comes big prizes! There are a lot of different ways to win. To explain them all I am going to repeat some tid-bits of information from earlier. To start off, there are 7 different categories in this competition. Each category has about 20 costumes in it. In each category there is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes. There is also prizes for student entries, first time entries, best costume per country (for example best American designer) and a sustainability award (if you made your costume out of recycled materials.) The most coveted prizes of the entire competition is the Supreme Award winner, and the Supreme Runner Up. Both awards are reserved for the best costumes in the entire competition, therefor to be eligible to win Supreme or Runner Up, you normally must win 1st in your category. One designer or design team can win multiple categories and prizes in addition to Supreme or Runner Up to Supreme. I have seen past designers win more then 3 titles with one costume. The prizes can get a big confusing, so if you would like to see a breakdown here is a link to The World of Wearable Art Website: http://worldofwearableart.com/designers/
Some of you may still be asking yourselves why this thing is such a HUGE deal to me. For a designer, winning a competition like this can change a their life. To even make it to the round finalists is a huge honor in and of itself. It is recognition that your design work is up to par with the best of the best world wide! Design companies come to these events and look for talent, and people from all over the world will see you work and be inspired. Also, because its word wide, the winning designer’s country will embrace and show off the designer as its World of Wearable Art design champion. This gives that individually unparalleled exposure. Of corse I have given you all of the honorable reasons, the potential for winning $40,000 in cash is always a huge deal to a broke student! And with that, I am finally done explaining what the World of Wearable Art competition is, now back to my story.
In the beginning of March 2013 I submitted photos and a concept statement of my garment to the World of Wearable Art. Keep in mind, I did this competition in ADDITION to my full-time school curriculum, AND a part time job. That means that while I was a taking 4 classes, already creating my final senior collection that consisted of 5 garments, and working a part time job to support myself, I created a costume for this competition that had to be on the work level of some of the best creators in the world. I put my blood sweat and yes, even a few tears into creating this thing. I can still remember having to wrap all of my fingers in band-aids every day for weeks, because the method of construction I was using combined with the deadline was creating blisters on all my fingers. But even with my fingers blistering I knew I needed to keep working to meet that deadline, and I absolutely refused to give up. It was a crazy time in my life, but all I could see was getting into circle of finalists. Every time I wanted to stop I just pictured myself winning, what it would look like, what it would feel like, even what it would sound like. It was this vision that kept me working when everything in my body screamed to give up.
All too soon, the beginning of March was here, and the moment of truth was arriving. I hired a photographer and model, did a professional photo-shoot, edited the photos, finished my concept statement and submitted. A few days later I got an email letting me know “Congratulations, you passed the first round of judging!”
The excitement was short and sweet as I realized I needed to mail this costume out ASAP. Initially I was thinking, “I am mailing a package, its going to be simple right?” WRONG! To mail this costume out I had to drive out to New Jersey to the Mainfreight shipping dock, who would then put my box on a ship and sail to New Zealand. Mind you, I don’t have a car, and I had a little over a week to get this thing packed and ready to go. Oh yea, and I had classes to attend because it was the middle of the school year!