Established in 1987, World of WearableArt (WOW) is a New Zealand-born celebration of art, design and fashion. YOUR ex talks to five rainbow community members (plus an ally) with different connections to the show about this queer creative spectacle. 

The 2024 WOW Show: DREAM AWAKE will bring the magic and vibrancy back to the heart of Wellington from 26 September to 13 October at the TSB Arena.

“The 2024 WOW Show: DREAM AWAKE will transport audiences to surprising and unexpected places,” Executive Creative Director Brian Burke tells us.


Burke made his name in Vegas working on groundbreaking shows like Celine Dion’s A New Day and Le Reve. He is now an international Emmy-nominated producer, working on the likes of America’s Got Talent and the Latin Grammys.

Brian Burke

“As always, the creative team will be pushing the boundaries to captivate everyone who takes the journey with us this year. We have jaw-dropping performances, unique aerial artistry, extravagant costumes, state-of-the-art 3D projection and lighting, and of course phenomenal wearable art from around the world, all coming together in a visual spectacle you can only experience at WOW,” Burke says.

“We know people love to see the detail of the garments, so we are constantly exploring ways to bring them closer. This year we’re building a completely new stage, using more of the arena, and integrating live cameras for giant projections to celebrate the artistic intricacies of the designs at the heart of the show,” Burke says.

YOUR ex contributor, Gareth Watkins, and his husband, Roger, were two of the 60,000 people who attended last year’s WOW show.

“What struck us both was the overall spectacle and high level of creativity,” Gareth tells us.

“The show was so polished and integrated – from the amazing wearable creations to the live music to the aerial artists and set design. There were so many unexpected moments with performers rising from below the stage, appearing in the audience, and being lowered from the roof.”

Gareth Watkins & Roger Smith

He says that his favourite part of the show was the impressive runway layout. “No matter where you were sitting, there were plenty of opportunities to see the garments and performances up close. All of the performers and models were 100% committed to delivering a performance that really elevated the garment designs.”

All this spectacle left Gareth feeling like the show has particular appeal for LGBTQ+ communities.

The diversity of creative expression was amazing and inspirational. WOW is an amazing platform that showcases so many aspects of creativity – from garment and set design to live performance. If you want to get inspired with a truckload of positivity and wow factor, then this is the show for you!

For WOW 2024, there is over $185,000 of prizes up for grabs this year across six section categories. This includes three recurring sections – Aotearoa, Avant-garde and Open – and three unique categories this year: Crazy Curiosities of the Creature Carnival, Natural World and Geometric Abstraction.

WOW – World of WearableArt 2023. Wellington, NZ. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.

Auckland-based landscaper Chris Davis was one of the designers whose garment was chosen to be displayed at last year’s show.

“It was a huge sense of relief,” he says, telling us about the moment he found out that his design had made the cut!

“The materials I choose are often very challenging to work with. Last year was no exception. I used beeswax to create my garment, so there was a lot of risk involved with that material. Being selected makes it worth all that time you put into your garment, and WOW designers spend a lot of time crafting their creations!”

Chris Davis

Chris had been a fan of WOW since childhood and had attended the show before, but he tells us that it was a very different experience to attend as a designer who had contributed to the show.

“It’s a richer experience,” Chris tells us. “It is quite a long time between submitting the garment and seeing it onstage. It’s breathtaking seeing it under the lights. The models and wardrobe team always do the most incredible work in bringing your vision to the stage. You also meet other designers at the designer events. So you get to know the person and story behind the other garments onstage, which gives another layer to viewing the show.”

Chris assures us that everyone should attend a WOW show at least once.

“I have taken friends along to the show who aren’t creative-minded or think it will just be a fashion show. After seeing the show, they are blown away and won’t stop talking about it. Everyone takes something different away from the show. World of WearableArt is a show like no other. It combines the garments, lighting, projections, dance, and props. Once you go to the show, you’ll realise it’s an experience like nothing you have seen before!”

For musician Jaxson Cook (@Jaxson.cook.official), the WOW stage has been a place where his dreams came true. First getting to model for the show, and in 2023, appearing as a headline performer.

Jaxson Cook

“I remember talking to my mum the first year I modelled for the show, saying how badly I wanted to headline one day,” he reflects, telling us that realising his dreams was no picnic.

“It was certainly challenging at times. I had to go on vocal rest for fear of losing my voice. I was wearing giant wigs and dancing in platform heels every night!” However, despite these challenges, Jaxson assures us that “every droplet of sweat was worth it to sing to thousands of people every night!”

For Jaxson (whose original song ‘Murky Lights’ can be found on Spotify), performing at WOW was a family affair, working with his mother Hil Cook (, who heads up a hair and makeup team working with the show’s pre-show characters, performers, aerialists and dancers.

“I work closely with the costume designer, Gabrielle Stevenson. We sit down with mood boards and all her wonderful creative ideas. She usually dreams up a wonderful scenario or story, which I then get to interpret in the makeup and wigs. We share an extensive Google Docs folder with ideas, and eventually, the look evolves,” she tells us, explaining her process.

Hil Cook

While the models have uniform simple hair and natural stage make-up to keep eyes focused on costume designs, Hil and her team get to have real fun, pushing boundaries and creating creatures – something she believes rainbow communities love seeing.

“The beauty and creativity of WOW is beyond anything I’ve seen anywhere in the world,” she shares, before reflecting on the impact the show has had on her son.

“I love that it challenges and inspires young people to follow their creative dreams!”

The 2024 WOW Show: DREAM AWAKE will bring the magic and vibrancy back to the heart of Wellington from 26 September to 13 October, delivering a mesmerising journey into a world between worlds at the TSB Arena.

Sol Invictus, Grandy C, Canada. WOW – World of WearableArt 2023. Wellington, NZ. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.