Taking home her first international accolade at the World of Wearable Art awards in New Zealand, Melbourne designer Natalie Hutton took out the top prize in the Avant-Garde section with her debut piece, Echoplex – Goddess of Reverb. Hutton was one of just eight Australian finalists in the 30th annual awards event and was competing against 148 finalists from 17 countries.

One of the biggest design awards in the world, Hutton described the experience as surreal. “An outer body experience is the best way to describe it. It’s going to take some time to sink in. I’ve been an exceptionally hard critic on myself for my whole life, that having such a long-standing and internationally renowned creative institution recognise you in such a way has really knocked me into an unfamiliar headspace. I’m not used to feeling ‘good enough’, and now my brain is having to re-evaluate that narrative right now,” said Hutton.

The competition brief: ‘dare to defy the boundaries of fashion and create a work that is unique and innovative, rejecting the ordinary and nurturing originality’ strongly resonated the designer, inspiring her to submit her feature piece.

“It is literally what I do. I’ve never been able to keep myself from going over the top when given a brief, however, in this case, I was already over the top and the perfect brief came to me. The mystical grey area that is my creative life of too arty for fashion and too fashion for art found itself the perfect home.”

15kg and 50-meter of hand-stitched honey-combed silk panels, the gown took eight years to fully design and create, with each of the 40 panels taking eight hours to complete by hand. The panels balanced on a corseted bodice that provided a four-inch waist reduction – showcasing the curves and intricacy of the design. A 500-hour project of sewing, the gown was just one piece of seven in her collection Synaethetics – inspired by the term synesthetic, representing the way the designer derives her inspiration.

“It’s been overwhelming in an awesome way. I attended the pre-show and was blown away by the stagecraft and the variety of the performances. I found myself teary when my gown was walked on stage, I don’t remember doing so, but apparently, I squealed. It was so amazing to see it move around the stage under the lights and in a setting that it melded so well. I couldn’t believe the reception it received, I was just so damn happy. I also attended the Designer’s Day where we spend the day meeting follow designers – it was so surprising to have fellow designers and the competition organisers come up to me to ask about, and compliment, my design,” said Hutton.

Following her win, Hutton feels confident she is on the right track with her designers and is excited to begin planning her next project which will consist of a limited-edition range of statement pieces. She is also on the drawing board again to work on future pieces for next year’s World of Wearable Arts awards. Just the start for Hutton and her Claudia Savage label, she is positive and looking forward to big things on the horizon in the world of design and fashion.

“I have been creatively and professionally bolstered by this experience. It’s comforting to know that there is an outlet for the more extravagant side of my work to be shown, but also that being multidisciplinary is not something to hide. It doesn’t make one of the things I do the ‘real job’ or the ‘hobby’, they all have equal weight and I intend to enforce that by doing exactly what I want to do regardless of people’s opinions. Technically I’ve always done that, but the WOW environment has cemented that mentality even more.”