Malaysia’s Miss Universe national costume is all about its rich heritage

Flip side fashion: (Left) Luhong wearing the first version of Malaysia’s national costume entry, which evokes memories of childhood and simpler times, while the reversed second outfit (right) is inspired by the sunset and pays homage to her Sarawakian heritage. (Photo courtesy of Miss Universe Malaysia)

KUALA LUMPUR: Coconut tree? Check. Attap roof? Check. Chicken? Check.

With all these elements firmly behind her, Francisca Luhong James, 25, will be off to represent Malaysia at the upcoming Miss Universe pageant in Florida, USA, next month.

Inspired by traditional Malay village homes, this contraption called Kampungku will be “worn” by Luhong as she vies for honours in the national dress category.

Weighing 45kg, Kampungku features a 3D house complete with replica chickens and coconut trees.

It is the brainchild of homegrown designer Carven Ong, who said Kampungku is a celebration of Malaysian architecture and its accompanying nostalgia.

The “kampung house” is actually a dual-facade structure that can be flipped by the wearer to showcase all the design elements, each side displaying a different kaleidoscope of colours and theme.

The first facade takes viewers to a monochrome setting, matching Luhong’s first black-and-white kaftan meant to evoke memories of old childhood drawings.

After parading this, Luhong will go into the kampung house, which brilliantly doubles up as a changing room, before emerging in a colourful off-shoulder dress to match the colourised version of the kampung house, all the while wearing a Borneo Doll headpiece designed by Wesley Hilton.

The monochrome facade of the house will be flipped to reveal a full-colour version complete with the chickens and coconut trees, an idea Ong conceptualised with Wescara, the design company he worked with on the costume.

Luhong’s second dress is inspired by the sunset and pays homage to her Sarawakian heritage.

Many people are loving Kampungku, taking to social media to say that Malaysia deserves to win the National Costume award.

Derry Anggara Putra posted on Facebook, saying, “Even last year you deserve the best national costume, this time no words than spectacular. Congrats Malaysia, love from Indonesia.”

“Wow... sangat cantik!!! (so beautiful) Love the Authentic Malaysia Betul ohhh. Queen kita pun tampak sgt yakin aura dia, (our queen clearly looks like she has a positive aura), ” posted Angela Mark.

Hazique Mohammad said, “Terbaik, the best ever”, while AEriff Dutry went, “MALAYSIA NOT PLAYING THIS TIME!”

Jules Banaga Dos wrote: “Winner” and “I have high hope that this time ‘we will be at the semis. Strong candidate the National costume is a plus”.

Others took to Twitter, with @_azizuldean posting: “ohmyy National Costume is out! and guess what, ada dua outfit ye (there are two outfits) love the transformation from b&w to colourful”.

@farisszuan said: “Berkonsepkan “kampungku” we could win the best National Costume!! Two sides and two looks. This is MALAYSIA.”

According to Ong, the idea for the costume, accessories and the 3D house came from his childhood.

“I’m a kampung boy from Taiping and I love kampung-style houses.

“My grandmother lives in an attap (thatch) house, and I came up with the idea to show the world that’s how our traditional houses in Malaysia look”, he said.

Luhong, 25, the first Dayak to win the Miss Universe (Malaysia) title said, “I feel like I’m bringing the whole of Malaysia’s culture on stage. It’s always been my dream to promote the diversity of Malaysia on an international stage. It’s a combination of Malaysia – east and west – and I have confidence in Carven’s Ong creation.”

“My favourite element is basically how I carry the costume to the stage as it represents the festive season.

“The best part is that the competition is in May, and both Hari Raya and the Harvest festival are happening around that time.

“This is one of the best things I could’ve done for our beloved country, ” she added.

Miss Universe 2020 will be crowned at the 69th edition of the pageant on May 16.

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