Miss Universe S'pore costume designer happy to play on pageant stereotype
When Miss Universe Singapore (MUS) 2018 Zahra Khanum appears on stage in Bangkok for the Miss Universe parade of national costumes next month, she will be displaying one of the significant events of the year.
In June, Singapore was the location for the historic North Korea-United States summit, the first-ever between the leaders of the two countries, Mr Kim Jong Un and Mr Donald Trump respectively.
That meeting is the inspiration for this year's MUS national costume, which consists of 3m-long white dove wings, a peace symbol incorporated into the bodice and an electric blue skirt emblazoned with a digital print of a handshake - one arm features the North Korean flag and the other, the American flag - over the Singapore skyline.
Designing the MUS national costume for the third year in a row, Mr Moe Kasim, 48, was happy to play on a beauty pageant stereotype - wanting world peace.
He told The New Paper: "The toughest part was bringing out the message tastefully through design. I had to consider the political sensitivities and what it all meant to Singapore and to the world community... without (creating) any misinterpretation.
"And as the summit was about making peace, it was only natural to go with the World Peace theme."
Said Miss Khanum, a 24-year-old sociology graduate from the National University of Singapore: "My first impression of the costume was that it looked absolutely angelic and it truly did embody the essence of world peace.
"It had a very serene and calming effect."
Mr Kasim, who is the creative director of Moephosis Concepts, worked with MUS national director Nuraliza Osman on the theme and the costume took three months to make.
Last year's MUS winner Manuela Bruntraeger sported an LED Supertree costume, while 2016 winner Cheryl Chou's was Peranakan-inspired.
He said: "This year's costume is different as it does not have any multi-racial, architectural or iconic elements or themes at all.
"Instead, it is based purely on an internationally-watched historic event in Singapore's calendar, which is rather unique."
Miss Nuraliza, 41, added: "It shows Singapore's importance in brokering peace, not only regionally but also globally."
Miss Khanum said: "It definitely represents something we all need, which is to promote a sense of unity and friendship, rather than hatred and anger."
The summit happened just before the weekend of the MUS 2018 auditions, and she remembers that period as one of preparation.
"I read up on world issues every night and took notes. I listened to what important people had to say about these issues, such as my idols (former US First Lady) Michelle Obama and (actress) Priyanka Chopra."
And now, she is putting a similar effort into preparing for the Miss Universe finals in Bangkok, to be held on Dec 17 at Impact Arena.
She said: "I have been going for constant workouts and eating healthy. I have been practising my catwalk and expressions on stage. I have also been keeping up with world news to broaden my knowledge.
"I hope that my efforts do pay off. I am looking forward to doing my best to make Singapore very proud."
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.