WORDS Joshua Brosnahan PHOTOS Supplied
Participating in one of New Zealand’s most ambitious and creative endeavours together would surely be taxing on the most well-balanced pairing, but late in the afternoon at Kadett cafe, Tatyanna Meharry and Natasha English are animated and relaxed. They are both on the same page. They’re speaking the same language.
This year, the sisters’ entry into WOW, entitled WAR sTOrY, took home the top prize of the Supreme Award. This is the second instance the sisters have won the top spot, the only repeat winner in the history of the competition.
Tatyanna remembers the very beginnings of the winning concept.
“We were sitting in this very cafe, five years ago. We had an idea there would be two elements. In my mind, what we produced was pretty close.”
The piece is a complex and detailed acknowledgment to the anniversary of the end of World War I, with a representation of both modern and past generations.
Producing the garments required different perspectives, reviewing the work from near and far, and taking photos to ensure the desired effect was there.
“The biggest thing for us, was scale.” says Natasha. “Anything worn on the body and primarily viewed from the stage needs amplification. What is the story the viewer sees from the distance? Things needed upsizing.”
It was always in the back of their minds that WOW is a competition.
“A lot of it is about what the audience will see. I mean, this is an artwork and this is the biggest stage in New Zealand for your art to be seen – 60–70,000 people see WOW over three weeks!
You want every single person that comes to that show to experience something. You want them to feel emotion, or to connect with what you’ve done.”
Some elements of WAR sTOrY were only seen by the judges. For example, the pieces are lined with a hand-screened fabric patterned with bullets.
“For us it’s always important to have a strong narrative and that we have a perspective on the design that is not myopic.”
This costume worked particularly well for the duo because they both had designated parts to work on.
“Our working relationship has evolved through WOW. The big thing we learned was that each of us have a particular toolbox of talents, and instead of micromanaging the process, you should just let that person work to their strength.”
This most recent win was not expected, and Natasha says the experience was a welcome sensory overload.
“There’s so many talented people who produce spectacular costumes, and you
want to see it all. You’re almost not paying attention to the prize-giving. When the winner was announced, we clapped and waited – then realised it was us!”
Tatyanna reflected on the entire process. “You have to enter WOW and not think of the
prize. It’s the challenge and the excitement. Seeing your creation on the stage feels like you’ve already won.
Where else can you go in New Zealand where you get to see that kind of excitement that isn’t a sports game? This is at a level of international quality.”