SINGAPORE: The Trump-Kim summit may be long over, but the historic event is back in the spotlight once again through an unlikely platform - the national costume of Miss Universe Singapore Zahra Khanum.
Unveiled on Thursday (Nov 29), the outfit features an electric blue skirt with a hidden surprise - a huge digital print depicting the historic handshake between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Miss Khanum will parade it at the Miss Universe 2018 pageant in Bangkok next month.
The costume quickly drew controversy. Many netizens questioned how the dress - with the flags of the US and North Korea in its design - represents Singapore.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, the 23-year-old responded to online critics, saying that the costume depicted a “bigger picture” representation of what Singapore stands for.
“I think it’s a bigger picture than that. This is just a representation of what Singapore stands for, which is world peace, and the fact that Singapore is reaching out to other countries to create positive relationships,” she said. “Singapore has been doing that really well for the past few years, and is continuing to do that.”
“I think this is just one event that represents that,” added the Miss Universe contestant. “I know it does not entirely represent Singapore, as many would say, but I think it’s a good representation of what Singapore has been doing and will continue doing in the future.”
Designed by Mr Moe Kasim of Moephosis Concepts in collaboration with Miss Universe Singapore national director Nuraliza Osman, the costume also features sweeping white feathered wings (to evoke the wings of a dove), a glittery peace symbol on its bodice.
The different elements of the costume all combine to embody world peace, said Miss Khanum. In addition, parts of the Singapore skyline such as the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands are also depicted on the skirt.
“The story is, when you come to Singapore you will enter from Changi Airport and then you will see all the different landscapes that are on the dress itself. So that’s your landscape view when you arrive into Singapore,” said Miss Khanum.
In comparison to her predecessors’ national costumes - which included an LED “supertree” and a colourful Peranakan wedding-inspired gown, both also designed by Mr Kasim - Miss Khanum said that her costume had a “very different focus”, putting Singapore on more of a global setting.
“The focus I think is very different, and I think the idea is a bit broader as well,” she said.
And how did her family and friends react when she first showed them the costume?
“I think everyone was a little bit surprised, (it’s like) what you said ... like how, you know, would this event represent Singapore itself,” she said. “But I think they’re all very happy that it’s colourful and it does represent some sort of diversity that Singapore has and the architecture that Singapore has.”
"WE WERE A LITTLE HESITANT AT FIRST"
The costume design company Moephosis Concepts said that it had been “a little hesitant” when briefed about the outfit’s theme.
“Earlier this year, when we were told that we had to design something in the theme of this historic event, we were a little hesitant at first as we were well aware of the political sensitivities surrounding it,” wrote the company in a Facebook post. “But hey! #ChallengeAccepted.”
“Singapore is widely known for our delicious food, beautiful gardens, and sunny smiles ... and we think this design will hopefully show the world that we love peace and that we are doing our part to promote unity and friendship globally,” the company added.
The Miss Universe 2018 pageant will be held in Bangkok, Thailand on Dec 17.