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In Bali, they relax in local fashions

2013-10-09 10:46:31

(China Daily/Agencies) By Olivia Rondonuwu


President Xi Jinping, wearing a shirt made from a silk-like Balinese fabric called endek, and his wife, Peng Liyuan, attend a dinner during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Monday night. [Photo/Agencies]

After falling out of favor during the global economic turmoil, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's propensity for dressing up its leaders in "silly shirts" returned with gusto on Monday as Indonesia's guitar-strumming president led a stylish parade of Balinese design.

US President Barack Obama was a notable absentee, perhaps relieved that a budget shutdown kept him home after he axed the annual fashion show when he chaired the APEC summit in Hawaii two years ago.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was there instead, sporting a purple shirt made of a silk-like Balinese fabric called endek.

While the fabric was woven in Indonesia, it came from China, a win-win outcome given APEC's stated goal of tearing down trade barriers.

President Xi Jinping came in red while Russian President Vladimir Putin — who also dispensed with the APEC shirts tradition in Vladivostok last year — wore green.

The shirts and blouses were on display as the heads of government trooped in to greet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the start of a summit dinner.

"After an already busy first day, and tomorrow's tight schedule, let us relax, enjoy the dinner and cultural performance tonight," Yudhoyono said before a gala performance that featured barefoot Balinese dancers and, later, a full-throated rendition of Psy's Gangnam Style by two male singers.

The Indonesian leader had already leavened the mood earlier on Monday in a break from somber discussions about risks to the global economy.

Yudhoyono, who has a series of albums of love songs to his name, brought out his guitar when he learned it was Putin's 61st birthday. Cheered on by Xi, he strummed Happy Birthday as Russia's tough-guy leader smiled broadly.

The last APEC fashion show occurred in Singapore in 2009, when relatively restrained shirts by a local designer were the order of the day.

It has seen its share of fashion disasters, sometimes leaving leaders looking grim-faced in group photos.

Former US president Bill Clinton started the tradition in 1993, handing out leather bomber jackets in Seattle. Blue-and-gold South Korean silk overcoats called durumagi were the bold choice in Busan in 2005.

The next year, then-US president George W. Bush and Putin were required to don flowing silk ao dai tunics in Hanoi.

Peru topped that with brown ponchos that unkind fashionistas said resembled potato sacks.

Yudhoyono, however, was undaunted when he brought out traditional dress at a separate East Asia summit in Bali in 2011, and followed up with the best of the island's artisanal design on Monday night.

Bali is a Hindu outlier in Muslim-majority Indonesia, and endek is a tie-dyed cloth usually used for Hindu rituals, made by hand on wooden looms. By tradition, the ability to weave the cloth signifies a Balinese girl's coming of age.

The Balinese designer who made the APEC shirts, Ida Bagus Adnyana, said that the particular pattern used for the leaders "symbolizes harmony and balance".

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