Mike Wilson is part of a working group looking to expand the Classic Car Museum into the space vacated by the WOW Museum. Photo: Charles Anderson.

WOW vows to stay in Nelson


The World of Wearable Art says that it has no plans to leave Nelson after it had to slash two thirds of its workforce and shutter its museum due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The organisation, which is based at what was World of Wearable Art and Classic Car Museum, was recently forced to cut its work force from 30 to 10 to ensure the ongoing viability of the organisation.

“We realise the effect this has on the community here in Nelson,” says new CEO David Tingey, who came to Nelson after running one of Peter Jackson’s film production businesses.

“It’s gut-wrenching.”

David started the job in lockdown and then immediately set about implementing a restructure for WOW, which was started in the 1980s in Nelson by Dame Suzie Moncrieff.

Since then it has become a global phenomenon with thousands coming to its annual show in Wellington.

The museum opened in 2001 and became a place where garments through its history were stored and displayed.

David says while the show, which has been cancelled this year, is based in Wellington there are no plans to shift the administrative hub of the organisation.

Dame Suzie lives in Nelson, he says, but did not want to speak about WOW’s future until it was clearer.

“For us it’s trying to work out what our business looks like. We do care about the local community and there are no plans to move anywhere else.”

Meanwhile, a working group for the Classic Cars Museum is vowing to move into the space vacated by WOW and give the facility a much-needed renovation.

“Quite quickly after that decision was announced we started talking about what we could do,” says Mike Wilson, who runs Cartel – a classic car renovation business out the back of the building.

“The number of cars has been growing over the years. It’s gotten tighter and tighter so there are a few new cars waiting in the wings. We thought ‘why not open up again if we could’.”

The new entity will reopen the café, which will be run by former WOW staffers, as well as inviting members of the community to show off their cars. The building itself is owned by the Talley’s family, along with the vast majority of the museum’s cars.

“We want the museum to be more part of the community. It feels more grass roots the way we are doing it.” But until then, there is work to be done as the building has not been closed for 20 years.

“It’s a bit worn out,” Mike says.

He hopes the new museum will be open for the September school holidays.

“People are excited, and a little bit upset that we aren’t open already.”