All things bright and beautiful are set to take over Wellington, where for 11 days the streets will teem with visitors to the World of WearableArt.
The curtain rises on Thursday on a sold-out festival. More than 47,000 tickets have been sold, 65 per cent of them to visitors to the capital.
WOW founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff and competition director Heather Palmer will for the next few days be involved in the finishing touches that are the culmination of a year's planning for Wednesday's preview night, when the final judging takes place.
"The stage and lighting rigs are up. Seeing it come together in a theatrical way, it just takes on a whole new life," Moncrieff says.
Palmer says getting models into the garments "breathes magic into them", often in a way the designer couldn't have imagined.
Details of the show and garments are secret, but tidbits leak out as they talk about the final preparations. "Tonight there's a lot of flying work to do," Moncrieff says on Thursday as they head into the first technical rehearsal.
There's also a hint some people will be "aghast" at the Bizarre Bra category, where one entry has been made from wood by a man paying tribute to his wife's battle with cancer. It features a thorn through the foot. "It's the personal journey of that man," she says, revealing the show will be different from previous years. "It's a roller coaster. You're entering this dream world where you're transported from everyday life into a world of magic and beauty."
It's big for Wellington, where the last economic impact study in 2009 estimated $15.1 million was pumped into the city during the show.
Positively Wellington Tourism says its about the city showcasing itself. For retailers, it's a boom time, that same report estimating $4.9m will be spent. "It's one of the most successful events in terms of attracting retail and restaurant spend because of its nature and the target audience," the organisation's marketing head Sarah Meikle says.
Kirkcaldie & Stains managing director John Milford says staff leave is scheduled around the season so the store will cope when the crowds arrive. "It's the biggest retail trading period outside of Christmas."
This year, the Kirkcaldies Christmas shop opens early, in time for WOW, and fashion, accessories and cosmetics will be hot as groups of women make a weekend of it, he says. "When they get together, they shop."
Restaurants Association president Mike Egan says the show is a hit with his members, with visitors filling tables. The Trade Kitchen is heavily booked, and manager Norman McLennon says its a similar story at all restaurants close to the TSB Arena venue. "Nobody complains about being booked out every night."
Hotels estimate bookings are up 60 per cent on the same period before WOW came to town in 2005. InterContinental sales and marketing director Geoff Naumann says bookings start the minute tickets go on sale in February.
Meikle says the vibe is what makes the event special. "Everybody embraces it." And that's essential to the city, "WOW helps us tell the story of our dynamism and creativeness."
DID YOU KNOW?
- Since WOW started in 1987, more than $1 million in prizemoney has been handed out
- 4500 garments have graced the catwalk
- In 2004 Claire Prebble, 18, became the youngest supreme winner. She has gone on to create film costumes for Avatar and The Hobbit
- Human hair, used rolls of film, coins, ballet shoes and car parts have all been used to create garments
- The first WOW show in 1987 was in a community hall in front of 200 people
- © Fairfax NZ News