Nelson designer Gillian Saunders is the 2016 WOW Awards Supreme Winner with her design Supernova.

Nelson designer takes out top WOW award


From a field of 133 garments, Nelson designer Gillian Saunders’ Supernova won the Brancott Estate Supreme WOW Award at Friday night’s international World of WearableArt Awards Show.

supernova-gillian-saunders-fullSupernova also won the David Jones Avant Garde Section, seeing Saunders take home two of the 20 top awards won this year by international designers from the UK, USA, China and New Zealand.

Supernova is Saunders’ 16th garment entered to the WOW competition since 2000 and her ninth award.

Gillian trained in Christchurch where she worked as a props maker for the Court Theatre.

“I had been making stage props for theatre and TV for years. WOW was the perfect challenge – could I make props for the body as well?”

Saunder’s workspace is filled with her book collections, piles of inspiration and her wearable art creations.

Gillian’s inspiration often comes from books – a sentence or a word that triggers floods of ideas. For Supernova she says she was inspired by a famous dress, a sea monster fin and images from space.

“I was inspired by the texture and colours of Thierry Mugler’s Chimera dress and the iridescent spiny fins of the Hippocampus from the Percy Jackson movie The Sea of Monsters and some incredible N.A.S.A images taken by the Hubble telescope,” Saunders says.

“Once all these elements were combined Supernova was brought to life. The large gems represent new stars being born and the dark shadows represent deep space. Each scale has been individually cut, shaded with marker pens and then hand sewn onto the garment. Each gem has had its sticky backing removed and then glued on by hand.”

Headed up by WOW Founder Dame Suzie Moncreiff, the 2016 WOW Award Show judging panel included distinguished judges Zambesi fashion designer Elisabeth Findlay and sculptor Gregor Kregar.

The judging process takes place over three months and involves viewing the garments three times; up close and on the stage in performance.

At the awards ceremony in Wellington, New Zealand, Dame Suzie emphasised the high calibre of the finalists in this year’s competition.

“To win this international design competition is an incredible achievement,” Dame Suzie says.

“Supernova has the design innovation, the construction quality and vibrant stage presence in performance to win WOW®’s top award.”

A total of 133 entries by 163 designers were chosen to appear in this year’s show to compete for a prize pool of 40 awards with a combined value of NZ$165,000.

A total of 12 New Zealand-designed garments won 17 awards and 23 awards were won by 19 international designs.

Also from Richmond, local designer Julie Brawley placed second in the Spyglass Creative Excellence Section with her work ‘Brighter Side Of Pail’.