Wowing the world
When art and fashion are woven around the human form it can entice, inspire and enrich. Spinning, twisting and twirling, this magical yarn has drawn audiences into an intricate sphere of artistic ingenuity.
Meg is a newcomer on WOW’s stage this year, coming onboard less than 100 days before the show. A once awestruck member of the audience at three WOW shows, Meg says as a viewer she found the show unforgettable. “I completely loved the dichotomy of how it really is hard to describe or define, yet so impossible to forget.”
Now, stepping into the shoes as CEO, the woman in charge of the overall management of the company, its strategic direction and fiscal performance, has left Meg feeling understandably privileged and excited to be given dream job. “I felt very honoured to
be offered a position. WOW is now in its
25th year and has a very impressive track record, so I was very excited by the opportunity to work with a talented team of committed people.
“I respect every aspect of the organisation; WOW is inspiring and really encapsulates what it means to have a vision. Working in such a creative environment is a dream. I could get lost for hours looking at the historic collection of garments that WOW has procured over the years.”
It is therefore no surprise to learn that Meg found it very easy to say yes and take on the job.
However, despite her obvious love for the creative, Meg does not hail from an artistic background herself and as a result is the first to admit there is a steep learning curve.
However, her passion combined with her more than adequate track record in management has her in good stead for dealing with whatever challenges, running an artistic organisation may bring. As the former head of marketing, Australasia, with Air New Zealand, Meg has experience in the key disciplines of finance, human resource management, strategic planning and marketing.
The creative factor aside, Meg says the biggest difference she has found to any previous positions is that as WOW CEO she is fortunate to be able to work directly alongside the shareholders, Dame Suzie Moncrieff and Heather Palmer. “It is inspiring to have two enthusiastic entrepreneurs as my mentors providing the wealth of knowledge that can only be gained through working in the organisation for over the years.”
Meg says WOW is already an “incredible brand” for New Zealand and as part of her new role she is looking forward to working with Dame Suzie Montcrieff and the rest of the team to identify and implement new strategies to build upon the brand’s success”.
WOW, which is now in its third decade, is considered by many to be the most creative event on the international design, fashion and costume calendar. With its beginnings back in 1987, in the small town of Nelson it has truly become a global phenomenon with entries from as far afield as the USA, UK, Australia, India, Thailand, Israel, Fiji, Canada, Japan, China, Korea and of course New Zealand.
This year WOW was even shipped out to perform, for the first time, at an overseas festival in Hong Kong. The show, which was part of the Hong Kong Arts Festivals 40th anniversary, was a success with all the tickets selling out.
Meg says it is her wish to continue to develop this brand turning it into an everyday language and genre – around the world. “The high-energy show has an incredibly wide appeal and the broadest of audiences one can possible encounter...it has no language barriers.
This provides many opportunities to develop the international status of the event. The success of WOW’s debut public show in the Hong Kong Arts Festival has given us great confidence in our international growth strategy.”
Meg says the last economic impact survey done by WOW emphasises just how relevant and vital the event has become to the local culture and community. Aside from adding to Wellington’s already vibrant reputation as one of New Zealand’s great artistic cities, it has, according to the survey, also injected $1million per day into the local economy. Sixty percent of WOW’s audience come into Wellington just to see the cultural extravaganza.
Despite Wellington hosting the show, for the past eight years, Meg says Nelson remains, and always will be, WOW’s home. “Having the Nelson office has never hindered the show and it allows Dame Suzie to remain connected with all the influences that have made her show scripting ideas so creative and ground-breaking.
“The company’s owners reside in Nelson, the WOW art and the Classic Car Museum is in Nelson and the historic garment collection is kept in Nelson.”
Being based in Nelson has simply meant that the team behind WOW has learnt to run an efficient, “well-oiled” system. Meg says complexity is something that is inevitable with any stage show of this size and magnitude - regardless of where it is run.
It’s certainly a huge show, with around 180 designer garments, $150,000 in prize money, more than 100 models, dancers and children - all of which takes a 12-18 month labour of love” to get from conception to stage.
“The show relies on an extremely talented production, creative and administration teams to ensure that around 200 garments and 400 cast and crew are in the right place at the right time.
“On average we pack and transport seven, twenty-foot containers between Nelson and Wellington for the show season. We have up to 15 Nelson staff move to Wellington for nearly six weeks depending on their role.
“Along with the obvious staging that is stored in Wellington we also store a lot of ‘support’ type equipment that we only use for the show…everything from the 400 pieces of front of house signage, to AV screens and TV’s to simple things like a coffee urn.
“Modern technology and good flights by our partner Air New Zealand between Nelson and Wellington mean our teams are very nimble. We like to think we have the best of both worlds, getting to live in beautiful rural Nelson and spend part of the year in the urban creative melting pot of Wellington.”
• First shown in 1987 as a promotion for a rural art gallery in Nelson
• Dame Suzie Moncrieff’s original vision was to exhibit art in the form of a live theatrical show
• It has since grown to international acclaim
• Major contributor to NZ’s reputation as a creative and design led country
• Every year the WOW judges select over 150 garments from designers from all over NZ and around the world to compete for around $150,000 in prize money
• The garments are showcased in a two-hour theatrical extravaganza, that twists convention perceptions of both art and fashion and weaves them into a performance that has been described as Mardi Gras meets Haute Couture at a Peter Gabriel concert directed by Salvador Dali.