SINGAPORE - A blue shawl and prominent jade pendant necklace are rare fashion choices for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but this was one way Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders kept to a time-honoured tradition despite having to meet virtually at this year's high-level gathering.
The items were sent by this year's Apec host, New Zealand, across the world to the other leaders of the 21-member grouping, who gamely donned them for their group photo at the Apec Economic Leaders' meeting on Friday (Nov 12).
The eye-catching items caught some netizens' attention when PM Lee posted photos of him and other leaders wearing them in a Facebook post on Saturday.
It is tradition for the Apec host to provide an article of clothing that all leaders don as a show of solidarity during their group photo.
This year, New Zealand sent a blue wool shawl. Its design was inspired by the korowai, a traditional Maori cloak that is worn as a mantle of prestige and honour, the Apec New Zealand committee said on its website.
The green pendant donned by PM Lee is another gift presented to the leaders of the Apec economies.
The pendant is carved from precious pounamu (jade/greenstone) and depicts a traditional "koru" shape.
Koru means curl and is a shape that, to the Maori, represents the new life, growth and rejuvenation of an unfurling fern frond.
Outfits from previous years ranged from bomber jackets to Chilean ponchos and brightly coloured shirts to high-collared Chinese tunics.
But a virtual meeting posed unique challenges when it came to choosing an appropriate garment, said Apec New Zealand deputy secretary Andrea Smith.
"Because the Apec Leaders weren't physically in New Zealand, we couldn't tailor a garment for each individual leader," she added.
"Instead, it had to be something everyone could wear comfortably, and that we could easily ship to them."
This year's meetings, chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, were focused on charting a recovery path out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At its closing, leaders of the grouping pledged to deepen economic integration, share vaccines more equitably, and to take concrete steps to tackle climate change.