New Zealand, Part 2: Mardi Gras Meets Haute Couture

Story and Photos by Patricia Alisau

A WOW entry: “The Greatest Show” accompanied by a solo freak show. Here’s where a dream dress might be made of copper wire, aluminum, papier mache, bird cages or builders’ foam, give or take a few buttons and bolts.

No way, you say!

Not if you’re in Wellington, I reply.

This creative capital of New Zealand has more surprises up its sleeve than Baskin Robbins has flavors. So in fashion, the big event is the World of Wearable Art show, a theatrical production with music, dance and wacky outfits, any one of which would give Lady Gaga a run for the money.

Started 23 years ago by an artist in the fishing port of Nelson, WOW soon found its way to trendy Wellington and international fame. Drawing most designs from New Zealand, hundreds of entries from the U.S., Great Britain, Netherlands, India, Italy and Canada also made an appearance in the 2011 show, the largest art event in the country.

Themed clothing chosen from pop culture, history and entertainment -- the more outlandish the better like a Mardi Gras parade -- were flashing by on the runway models while I watched and wondered how appropriate any of the dresses would be on a first date. In any case, once the shows are over, the designs don’t go down in oblivion. They end up in a permanent display in a museum where it all started, in Nelson.

Another entry: “Hermecea,” a crustacea dwelling on the sea beds.Gaining more of a global appeal over time, WOW, for the first time ever, in 2012, will perform outside the country at the 40th Hong Kong Arts Festival Jan. 29-Feb. 5.

By any stretch of the imagination, WOW wows.

More info:

Getting there: Air New Zealand offers daily nonstop flights to New Zealand from San Francisco and Los Angeles and one-stop service (via the west coast terminals) from New York.

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