It's the Miss Singapore Universe pageant in Mexico City.
The whole world is watching.
One by one, the beautiful contestants step up, resplendent in their national costumes.
There's Miss USA, Miss Colombia, Miss India... Ah, Miss Singapore!
Pretty, pretty Jessica Tan, our country's pride and glory, steps up... in a national dress designed by a teenage schoolboy...
Don't get us wrong. We have nothing against amateur designers, and certainly nothing against 17-year-old Muhammed Hafiz Tahir, the designer of the dress.
It's just that, it's the Miss Universe pageant. And the last time we checked, it should be THE main beauty pageant in the world.
So what's a nation's pride and joy doing in a national dress designed by a schoolboy with zero experience on the international stage?
Are we so starved of designers and big-name homegrown couturiers that no-one is willing to step forward to take up the challenge?
What about national pride?
One person who feels the same is fashion choreographer-director-stylist Daniel Boey.
He said: "This is an international pageant with global coverage, so shouldn't we be sending forth our best instead of using it as a training ground for young designers?
"We're lucky to have a really pretty winner this year, but it's a shame the organisers are not pulling out all the stops to make sure she looks her best!"
Don't blame us, said Miss Singapore Universe organiser and events company Derrol Stepenny Promotions.
Its business and promotions director Daryl Pang insists that he does not make as much profit as the public thinks.
According to him, sponsorship fees barely cover the whole Miss Singapore Universe production, which is a joint effort with MediaCorp.
This includes the $25,000 prize money, air ticket and other hidden costs, all of which total six figures.
Over the years, Mr Pang said he often has had to dig into his own pockets, which is why he tries to cut costs as much as possible.
He lamented: "Of course we want our winners to look their best, but there are financial constraints.
"We don't mind paying if we have the capital to spare. But if we spend thousands on a costume, what do you do with it after the pageant?
"I would prefer to give this to someone who is doing it from the heart for his country, rather than pay someone who's all about business to do it like a job.
DO MORE THAN TALK
"If these designers love to talk so much about not being able to help because they're not being paid, then why not change things and just do a good deed for once?"
For Mr Pang, sponsorship has always been the easy way out over the years.
Which is why it's resorting to untested rookies again - the second time since 2005, when it also collaborated with South East Community Development Council (CDC).
Then, winner Cheryl Tay's outfit was fully sponsored, and designed by another aspiring 17-year-old, Nauveed Ahmad.
In the case of South East CDC's involvement again, it's a win-win situation for both parties.
One designer who has stepped up to offer his help in the past is Haron Abdul Hamid.
Haron, who owns a bridal boutique and has been in the industry for 30 years, has sponsored Miss Singapore Universe national costumes from 2000 to 2004.
He is usually given a month to work on each outfit, with costs ranging from $500 to $1,000.
He's also been doing it free of charge for five years in a row because of the "good relationship" he shares with Derrol Stepenny since the '90s.
However, even Haron - who has designed for Anita Sarawak and made award-winning national costumes for various pageants like Miss Asia Pacific, Miss Tourism International and Miss World - admitted he doesn't "go all out" because he has to make them "practical enough" to be re-used for Malay weddings, as interested brides pay him for the rental.
But he decided not to continue because if there's no money involved, it's a waste of his time.
He told The New Paper in a resigned tone: "It's no big deal for me anymore as I gain nothing and I don't benefit from it.
"I didn't mind at first because I was so proud seeing my baju paraded on TV.
But I've been doing the same thing too many times - enough lah. And after all these years, you know what you're going to receive."
ALL ABOUT MONEY
So is money the real issue?
It seems so - the designers we spoke to admit it all boils down to money.
Renowned couturier Francis Cheong, who has done a few FOC assignments in the past, said: "We will be more than happy to create something magnificent, but so far, I've not heard of an organiser who's willing to spend on the costumes.
"Or even if they offer payment, it's a fee that you and I don't want to know...
It makes it very difficult for designers as we run our fashion like a business."
Then, there's also the question of the national dress itself - why hasn't anyone actually defined our national costume after all these years?
Mr Pang said there's "no criteria" from the Miss Universe committee regarding national costumes "as long as it's something that represents our culture" - but history has shown us that the three-races-in-one approach seems to be the standard blueprint to follow.
Which is exactly what Hafiz has done.
The young designer was discovered last year at South East CDC Fashion Fiesta, an annual event which provides a platform for young local designers to display their fashion chops.
Although he conceptualised this year's national costume before Jessica was crowned on 22 Apr, he had only four days to complete it.
Hafiz said he wanted to capture Singapore's multi-racial culture with a fusion dress, which is why he combines Chinese, Malay and Indian elements.
The main piece is essentially a cheongsam over a kebaya-influenced layered skirt made out of Indian chiffon. A traditional Malay sanggul headdress and three kerongsang brooches complete the look.
Red and gold were chosen as they are auspicious colours that symbolise luck and prosperity, he explained.
Even though his creation may not be as controversial as Miss Mexico's - the violent images of hangings from a 1920s war uprising on the skirt had to be toned down - it's already stirring up strong reactions from the fashion community here.
Industry experts feel that although the garment adequately represents Singapore, it looks too amateurish, cheap and unpolished for the world stage.
According to Daniel, "it looks like it was salvaged from the costume archives of Neptune Theatre ... She looks like an extra from some Chinese ghost story!"
He added: "To be fair to Hafiz, four days is grossly insufficient time to put a national costume together, even for an experienced designer."
Haron judges it as being "too simple" and not "experimental and adventurous" enough.
And even though the fusion concept isn't new, Francis praises the first-timer for "thinking of gelling it together".
He added: "But unfortunately, the end result is just a so-so thing."
Although it doesn't blow Jeanette Ejlersen, senior fashion and beauty editor of Her World magazine, away, she likes the outfit because "it highlights Jessica's bright personality and feminine features".
Daniel suggested Derrol Stepenny could try collaborating with the likes of Risis and award-winning theatrical costume designer like Moe Kassim for the ultimate "runway showpiece".
But Jeanette thinks it's "quite presumptious" for anyone to step up and say he has designed the definitive national costume.
She said: "Ideally, it should be a joint collaboration with a government body, an events company and a respectable and experienced local designer.
"It is to our country's benefit too that we are presented in the best light, after all."
PAST WINNERS AND WHAT THEY WORE
2001: Jaime Teo
Dress by: Haron Abdul Hamid
2002: Nuraliza Osman
Haron Abdul Hamid
2004: Sandy Chua
Dress by: Haron Abdul Hamid
2005: Cheryl Tay
Dress by: Nauveed Ahmad
2006: Carol Cheong
Dress by: Perfect In Black
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