If you’re in the midst of 2020 holiday planning, New Zealand should definitely be near (if not at) the top of your list. Not only is it a mecca of unspoilt natural beauty, but a hub for cultural and culinary delights as well (not to mention, less intrusive on the wallet than the Euro or USD is at the moment). Wellington in particular is a melting pot of food, vintage fashion, natural wine and art, namely the World of Wearable Art (WoW) spectacle that happens once yearly.

Minted in 1937, the awards show started from humble beginnings, showing to just 200 people in rural Nelson, New Zealand. Now, it’s grown exponentially, labelled by those who have been as a ‘Cirque du Soleil meets an avant-garde couture runway’. As the world’s most significant wearable art competition, WoW is internationally-recognised and attracts entries from both established and first-time designers at the cutting edge of fashion, art, design, costume and theatre. It’s hard to describe exactly what is in in words, but if you imagine a couture week runway, a craft store and a Broadway show had a baby, you’re well on your way.

Gemini: The Twins. Image credit: Getty Images

The competition happens in Wellington yearly (September 25 is the date slated for the 2020 awards ceremony), and transforms the city into an explosion of colour, creativity and design. 2019 saw 115 designers from 22 countries competing for 34 awards and more that $180,000 NZD in prizes. Winners span across categories like sustainability, first-time entrants, student awards, wearable technology and segments like Aoteaora, avant-garde and open. It’s the diversity that makes it so incredible to watch: one look might appear straight off the Met Gala red carpet, while another is constructed out of recycled bicycle pieces, as was the case at the 2019 event.

Idea Urchin Explosion. mage credit: Getty Images

2019 highlights included Sustainability award winner ‘Engolfed’ by New Zealand designer Leanne Day who transformed discarded golf clubs and leather carry bag into a space-meets-scuba costume. Or International Design Winner Gemini: the Twins by US duo Dawn Moscow and Ben Gould, who laser-cut latex into two exactly opposing, skin-tight dresses. Also not to be missed was Sea Urchin Explosion by: an inflatable star-suit blow up to grandiose proportions.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – SEPTEMBER 25: The Lady Warrior, by Rinaldy Yunardi of Indonesia, is modelled in the Avant-garde Section during the World of WearableArt Preview 2019 at TSB Bank Arena on September 25, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images for World of WearableArt)

Outside of the show itself, the National WoW Museum is the perfect chance to get a closer look at past and current entries – with 40,000 visitors a year, it’s the perfect way to round out the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you’re a fan of fashion, art, design or innovation, plan your New Zealand trip around the WoW festival – sure to be an experience like nothing else on Earth. For more Wellington tips, see our 48-hour detailed guide here.