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Jacinda Ardern makes surprise appearance at World of Wearable Art Awards 2022

Hawke’s Bay designer Kate MacKenzie takes out top honours for the second time—’We are in awe of the designer’s resourcefulness’ say judges—but the prime minister’s appearance was the surprise of the evening, writes Sopheak Seng with Lucire staff
September 30, 2022/9.45

Continuing a tradition of having a surprise guest, this year’s World of Wearable Art Awards (WOW) in Wellington, New Zealand, saw the country’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern make an appearance on stage modelling at the all-important awards’ ceremony night.

Ardern closed the Aotearoa section of the show wearing Digitally Grown, created by Dylan Mulder, and was very well received by a surprised audience at the TSB Arena.

Prior to this, Helen Clark had made an appearance on stage in 2002 when she was New Zealand’s prime minister.

The 2022 show proved to be a beacon of hope to showcase the power of art during trying times globally, a reminder of how art and creativity can shine in times of darkness. It was one of the best shows the organizers of WOW had done for a while.

At the end of the evening, it was announced that the 2014 World of Wearable Art Awards winner Kate MacKenzie had won the Supreme Award for a second time, for her work Wanton Widow, netting her the top NZ$30,000 prize. MacKenzie, who hails from Hawke’s Bay, entered and won the Open section (a NZ$6,000 prize) with her creation, complete with armour, a mourning cap, and a wheel in tow.

The judges said, ‘We are in awe of the designer’s resourcefulness in use of the vintage china cabinet and Singer sewing machine drawers. It perfectly captures what we mean when we say wearable art. It is refined, sculptural and tells a story.’

The Open section, along with Aotearoa and Avant-garde, returned from previous years, and were joined by Architecture, Elizabethan Era, and Monochromatic for 2022. All up were NZ$185,000 of prize money.

The first round of judging to select the finalists took place in 2021, by a panel comprising WOW founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff, Zambesi designer and co-founder Elisabeth Findlay, sculptor Jeff Thomson, Academy Award-winning (for Elizabeth: the Golden Age) costume designer Alexandra Byrne (Persuasion, Finding Neverland, Thor, Doctor Strange, Murder on the Orient Express [2017], Emma [2020]), costume designer and creative director B. Åkerlund, and co-founder, CEO and creative director of Wētā Workshop, five-time Academy Award winner Sir Richard Taylor.

The judges do not see the identity of the creator of each piece. It is only afterwards that they find out who it is.

Held at the TSB Arena in Wellington, the World of Wearable Art Awards’ show has cemented its reputation as one of the world’s foremost wearable art events, and a stage spectacular. This year’s show has over 100 dancers, kapa haka performers from Ngāti Pōneke, and aerialists. Musicians Estère and Sharn Te Pou feature.

The show will continue to take place at the Arena for the next three weeks, till October 16. It is expected to attract 60,000 people to the venue, with 35,000 travelling from outside Wellington. Tickets are still on sale at
Winners for 2022

Supreme WOW Award winner, Wanton Widow, by Kate MacKenzie, New Zealand, also the winner of the Open section

Runner-up, Fera Dei, by Fifi Colston and Bruce Mahalski, New Zealand, also the winner of the Aotearoa section

Avant-garde section winner, Documental, by Bethany Cordwell, Australia, which also won the Residency Experience Award

Monochromatic section winner, Life, by Sun Ye, Ma Yuru and Zhou Honglei, China

Architecture section winner, Hidden Layers, by Anna Weszelovszky, Hungary

Elizabethan Era section winner, Madame Paon Doré, by Veritée Hill, USA

The Dame Suzie Moncrieff Award went to Dark Alien Doctor, by Cecilio Castrillo, Spain

The first-time entrant award went to Glistening Gothic Tracery, by Colleen Muscha and Christina Marullo, USA

The Student Innovation Award went to Beneath, by Agnes Olah, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Wales

Wearable Technology Award winner, Little Electric Dress (LED), by Dinah Walker and Mark Walker, New Zealand

Sustainability Award winner, Haerenga (Journey), by Christopher Davis, New Zealand

The New Zealand Design Award went to Ætatem Aureum: Elizabeth & Her Lady, by Carolyn Gibson and Joelle Marsh, New Zealand

Absolutely Positively Wellington International Design Award: UK & Europe, won by Andromeda, by Cecilio Castrillo, Spain

Absolutely Positively Wellington International Design Award: Asia, won by Neoru, by Jayati Saraf, Pearl Academy, India. This was also the overall International Design winner

Absolutely Positively Wellington International Design Award: Americas won by Elizabethan Jester, by Miodrag Guberinic, USA

Absolutely Positively Wellington International Design Award: Australia & Pacific won by Revolution, by Hanna Smith, Australia

Wētā Workshop Emerging Designer Award won by The Giant Purse, Thảo Nguyên, Vietnam

A full awards’ list goes online at from 1000 UTC (11 p.m. NZDT) on Friday, September 30.


Sopheak Seng is fashion and beauty editor of Lucire.

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Filed by Sopheak Seng