By Fathin Ungku
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – When Singapore’s Zahra Khanum takes to the stage for the Miss Universe contest, she will be wearing a dress portraying a historic handshake between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Inspiration for the striking design came from a summit between the old foes in Singapore in June, and the island nation’s efforts to build world peace, not its UNESCO heritage site Botanic Gardens, its architecture or diverse culture.
“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,” the designer of the dress, Moe Kasim, told Reuters.
Trump and Kim pledged at their Singapore meeting to work to end the North’s nuclear program in return for bringing the long-isolated state into the international community.
Khanum’s royal blue outfit comes with a three-metre-long pair of “dove wings” and the dress spreads to reveal a digital mosaic of the handshake between figures in coat sleeves representing the North Korean and American flags.
“I believe the MUS organizers wanted to highlight what was relevant, current and unique – something that was probably only going to happen once in our lifetime and in Singapore’s history,” Kasim said, referring to Miss Universe Singapore.
Khanum, 24, will represent the city state in the Miss Universe finals in Bangkok on Dec. 17.
The Trump-Kim summit was already a public relations coup for Singapore.
As images of Kim strolling in the open-air rooftop bar of the landmark Marina Bay Sands hotel beamed around the world, “Singapore” became the most searched term on Google in the United States.
Singapore said it spent S$20 million ($14.6 million) on the summit. Marketing experts said the business generated by the media coverage could be worth more than 10 times that.
While the summit has put Singapore in the history books, many Singaporeans were not so impressed by the dress.
“This cannot be shown to the world. We will become a laughing stock,” Facebook user Elisah Lim said.
Within hours of the dress being revealed to the world, a battle of Photoshop warriors erupted with a host of suggestions for should have been depicted on the dress to truly represent Singapore.
One cheeky mock-up showed the dress bearing an image of the pungent Durian fruit while another featured a famous Singapore curry puff pastry.
(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Robert Birsel)