Designer Brian Khoo on Miss Universe Malaysia's nasi lemak costume

7 things you need to know about Samantha Katie James' national costume and evening gown

By Lydia Chan | Published: 1 Nov 2017

Why nasi lemak?
Photo: ELLE Malaysia

The Miss Universe Malaysia national costume and evening gown were unveiled just yesterday and has already caused a frenzy all over the country. Current Miss Universe Malaysia Samantha Katie James debuted both looks – a gorgeous red evening gown and the now-viral nasi lemak costume.

Malaysian designer Brian Khoo, who created both looks, talked to us about these unique creations.

Both Brian and Samantha love nasi lemak
Brian instantly knew he wanted to design a nasi lemak costume, but little did he know that Miss Universe Malaysia 2017 herself is also a huge fan of the dish.

"The first design meeting we had, I didn't meet Samantha, but I told everyone I want to make it about nasi lemak. It was only at the second meeting that I met her and told her about it, and she was like, 'Oh my god, it's my favourite food too!' It was like fate," he recalled with a laugh.

It took a team of six and a total of 400 hours to create both gowns
For the nasi lemak costume, Brian and his team tried and tested many different beads to represent the different nasi lemak components. Also worth noting: each glass bead was individually hand-embroidered!

The 3D ikan bilis (anchovies) took a bit more innovation
"We tested out different plastics and metals and we finally found this metal that we could bend, making it perfect to shape into ikan bilis. We hand-painted them to make them look more realistic," he said of the "delicious" look. 

Those banana leaves are floppy for a reason
"To keep it super authentic and true to our culture, the banana leaves are made from batik, held up by plastic poles in the back," Brian explained. The team also cut slits to resemble the real leaves and chose to "keep it organic" as opposed to stiff and wing-like.

Details on the nasi lemak national costume (Photo: ELLE Malaysia) 

The evening look was inspired by a Malaysian fashion icon
Brian looked to late singer-actress Saloma for inspiration, saying "I love Saloma's cinched waist and full hips and I wanted to emulate that for Samantha to enhance her figure."

There's a reason behind the bold colour choice for the evening gown
"I chose the colour red because it's a Malaysian colour. It's the colour of our national flower, the hibiscus and it's also on our flag. Besides that, red is the colour of strength and power which is fitting for Samantha who is definitely a strong, independent girl," Brian explained.

The red gown is actually a bodysuit of sorts
At first glance, the crimson design looks just like any other evening gown but Brian revealed that the look is actually an all-in-one piece. "It's actually Swarovski-studded tights, attached to both the mesh corset and shoes. This makes it easy for [Samantha] to walk onstage in," he said.

The evening look and national costume (Photo: Bibo Aswan)

Samantha will compete in the Miss Universe 2017 pageant in Las Vegas on 26 November.

Related: Craziest Miss Universe 2016 national costumes
Related: How I do it: Samantha Katie James
Related: Revealed: Miss Universe Malaysia 2016's national costume


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