Miss Cheryl Chou will have an impressive headpiece when she walks down the stage at the Miss Universe finals.
A take on the Malay sanggul lintang (traditional bridal headgear), the elaborate headpiece is one of the Peranakan elements in Miss Chou's gown for the national costumes segment.
Mr Moe Kasim created the costume, which will be worn by Miss Universe Singapore 2016 when she takes the stage in Manila on Jan 30.
Miss Chou's gown is inspired by the Peranakan culture, specifically Peranakan weddings.
"When I did my research, I realised that the Peranakan culture has never been featured in the Miss Universe pageants," said the award-winning costume designer.
And so the 46-year-old was inspired to showcase the rich heritage through his design.
"As the Peranakan culture is a mixture of Malay and Chinese, I added elements from the Malay bridal head piece and the red balls from Chinese lanterns," Mr Kasim said.
He said: "The original Peranakan wedding headdress is quite tall, which can make Cheryl's face look too long.
"My version resembles a pagoda, and it's mostly made out of metal with some glass and about 500 Swarovski crystals."
He added that the headdress, which weighs about 1kg, took about three months to make.
The backpiece is made of "phoenix feathers" and is Mr Kasim's interpretation of the Peranakan wedding phoenix collar. It weighs about 3kg.
The dress, made of brocade sourced from India, is a modern take on the traditional outfit.
He said: "The traditional Peranakan wedding outfit is very loose and baggy, but we want to show off Cheryl's beautiful body so I made it into a more sexy and elongated version.
"You can see that it's also almost like a de-constructed version of a kebaya. I didn't want to use Chinese embroidery because it's quite flat and matte, so it doesn't pick up light."
The costume took about five months to complete, and was revised twice.
Mr Kasim, who runs costume store Moephosis Concepts, said his initial ideas for the costume included the Singapore Flyer, Esplanade, and the design of a Peranakan plate. But he decided that he should focus on more cultural themes.
He said: "When I designed this outfit, there was no particular look or person that came into my mind.
"This whole theme is an interpretation, not a direct translation as some people might be sensitive and not accept that.
"Therefore, I try to stay within my boundaries. This whole look is more whimsical than practical."
Miss Chou was ecstatic when she first saw the gown.
"I was amazed when I first saw the costume. I had only seen the sketch of the costume once and was only able to try it on a month later," she said.
"I loved everything from the colours to the embroidery to the silhouette of the costume.
"Like Moe said, using Peranakan culture has never been done before and it is so meaningful for me to be able to wear this design and showcase a part of the Singaporean culture at Miss Universe."
When TNP asked Mr Kasim whether the hard work is worth it for just a few minutes on stage, he said: "I think it's all worth it because you're representing Singapore, and it's also how you carry yourself and the designs."
This article was first published on Jan 13, 2017.
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