'Silly shirt' parade revived in Bali
Nusa Dua - A quirky tradition of dressing Asia-Pacific leaders in colourful local costume was revived at an Asian summit in Bali on Friday, after briefly falling victim to the global economic crisis.
The annual Apec fashion parade was axed earlier this month at the group's summit in Honolulu, where leaders stepping out in Aloha floral shirts would have appeared out of step with the gloomy economic mood.
But at an East Asia Summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, the heads of state and government emerged from their limousines clad in shirts made with tenun ikat, a traditional fabric woven from dyed threads.
US President Barack Obama, wearing green, gave Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's wife Kristiani a peck on both cheeks as he arrived, and was later seen in a close tete-a-tete with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, clad in Communist Party red.
Thailand's leader Yingluck Shinawatra picked the same colour - as worn by her brother Thaksin's die-hard Red Shirt supporters who besieged central Bangkok for months last year.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard chose burgundy and the sultan of Brunei was in green, the colour of Islam.
Yudhoyono, the purple-clad host of the evening, told the leaders that Bali had "an amazing way to cure jetlag and rejuvenate strength" and their main duty for the evening was to enjoy themselves.
"Tonight our business is everything but official," he said.
The annual Apec group photo has seen its share of fashion disasters, sometimes leaving leaders looking grim-faced.
Clinton handed out leather bomber jackets in Seattle in 1993, but blue and gold South Korean silk overcoats called durumagi were the order of the day in Busan in 2005.
The next year the then US president George W Bush and Russian leader Vladimir Putin were required to don flowing silk "ao dai" tunics in Hanoi.
Obama looked relaxed and jovial on Friday, despite having told reporters in Hawaii that it was about time the fancy Apec outfits were retired.
"I got rid of the Hawaiian shirts because I had looked at pictures of some of the previous Apec meetings and some of the garb that had appeared previously, and I thought this may be a tradition that we might want to break," he said at the time.
The leaders also skipped the ritual at last year's Apec summit in Yokohama, Japan, appearing in sober business suits after organisers decided against turning them out in local garb.