Paula Rowan, World of Wearable Arts

WoW – how disappointing

STOP PRESS: It appears Paula Rowan had received WoW’s
approval to base her entry (right) on the painting (left).
See UPDATE below. I didn’t know that when I wrote this post.

Looking at the above double-take, there’s a pun I’ve always liked that seems to fit.

Bubonic plagiarism.

Cute, huh?

As a wordsmith, I’d love you to think I dreamed that up myself.

But if I let you believe that, I’d soon be in deep schtuck.

That’s because a lawyer called Murphy would make me pay dearly.

Under Murphy’s Law, one of you dear readers would be seized with the urge to re-peruse your 1973 edition of Austin Mitchell’s Half-Gallon, Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise.

And when you got to the lower reaches of the first paragraph of page 82, you would see it.

I’ll quote the whole passage for political reasons — the 39 year old subject matter sounds eerily current!:

The National Party pays for opinion polls so it knows the result in advance and judges its policy accordingly.

When it is certain it is going to win (as in 1966) it will denounce all Labour’s policies in advance of the poll and then implement them quietly afterwards.

When more doubtful (as in 1969) it will go in for really bubonic plagiarism and either implement Labour’s policies in advance or include them in its manifesto.

Some things never change, do they? 🙂

But this post is about plagiarism, not politics.

As soon as you laid eyes on the words ‘bubonic plagiarism’, your opinion of my originality would plummet.

You would forever more think of me as, well, a bubonic plagiarist.

And that, sadly, is how I will now think of Paula Rowan.

Paula is the Wellington designer I praised to the heavens on this blog not three weeks ago for her stunning, yet curiously unplaced, entry in the 2012 World of Wearable Arts Awards.

I thought she deserved better. And said so.

Kiwiblog’s David Farrar had already said so.

And 814 Dominion Post readers went on to say so, by voting Paula’s Velluto Rosso their WoW People’s Choice by a wide margin.

But sadly, the brilliantly simple idea that anchored Paula’s creation was not Paula’s.

She’d found it in a painting by Vladimir Kush.

And so, she was forced to hand back her prize or be disqualified.

Perhaps Paula Rowan is not dishonest.

Perhaps she genuinely believed that she was allowed to copy an idea from another medium and adapt it for the catwalk.

But to me, while her execution was beautiful, the real beauty of her creation was the idea — Vladimir Kush’s idea.

I’ve judged advertising awards, and people who are caught pinching others’ ideas rarely live down the shame.

Maybe the WoW judges knew what they were doing after all.

UPDATE: A friend of Paula Rowan’s has commented as follows:

“As you have said, yes, Paula is a wonderful designer and one to be highly looked upon.

However, what you have written is not the full story.

Paula ran her idea past the judges before she created it, with a copy of the painting.

The WOW committee said that it would be fine and to go ahead with it.

A few weeks into making her garment, she did it again, just to be sure.

And once again, WOW said to go ahead.

Paula is not in the wrong here. WOW is the one in the wrong. WOW was the one who made the mistake, Paula did nothing wrong.

WOW is the one who should be in the spotlight, NOT Paula.”

If that is indeed the case, then I feel for Paula. I have had a similar experience recently with a certain Rotary club. 🙂

I would say, though, that while it appears as though Paula acted with absolute integrity, it would have been nice if the catalogue had mentioned that the human purse idea originated elsewhere.

David Farrar, Wellington, World of Wearable Arts

If only the WOW judges shared Farrar’s and my good taste

On Friday I lucked into a free ticket to World of Wearable Arts — on awards night!

Out of a blizzard of jawdroppingly dazzling entries, these two velvet and gold characters ‘WOWed’ me the most.

Clinging together like limpets doing a kind of shuffly waltz, gilded domes entwined, the point of it all was at first a mystery.

Then they shuffled into the spotlight, untwined their necks, leaned back, and became…

…a human purse!

In the ad world, award judges tend to bypass irrelevant complexity and honour the surprising and the simple.

So with complexity abundant and simplicity scarce, I thought Velluto Rosso by Wellington’s Paula Rowan, would clean up.

And so, I read on Kiwiblog, did David Farrar. And 3 News too, who showcased this entry on their website.

How telling that three amateur pundits should all recognise the power of the big idea.

Yet the judges did not.

They plumped for the complex, and the human purse was out of the money.

David describes the rest of the spectacular night well — an astonishing achievement for our small city.

I’ve always giggled at the tag ‘Coolest Little Capital’, since the only other ‘little’ capitals are Canberra, Reykjavik and Suva.

But with WOW, the Sevens and the breath-defying creations of Weta Workshop, Wellington must surely be the Fancy Dress Capital of the Universe.