Sunday, 29 May 2016

Tuk Tuk dress revs up Miss Universe then runs out of gas

This piece originally appeared in Fah Thai, the inflight magazine of Bangkok Airways. Khun Aniporn did not go on to lift the worldwide title, making the top 10 cut but not the final five for Miss Universe 2015. Her dress, however, stole the show, winning Best National Costume, adding to the legend of Thailand's loved and loathed icon, the tuk tuk. 


"Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory." —Coco Chanel

This sage advice from the greatest fashion icon of them all should be easy to heed as Miss Universe Thailand Aniporn Chalermburanawong gets ready for the biggest beauty pageant of them all - Miss Universe 2015.

Miss Aniporn will take to the stage at the Axis Theatre, Planet Hollywood Resort in Los Angeles dressed as a tuk tuk, complete with handlebars, working headlights, rearview mirrors, chromium accents and racing stripes, flags and streamers, tights in a tread pattern to resemble tires, a klaxon ‘ahooga’ multi tone horn that plays the Thai National Anthem, and a mobile smoke machine that shrouds the entire stage and auditorium in a thick, choking smog.

OK, I made the last two up. But the rest is all absolute fact. The ‘Tuk Tuk Dress’ will be worn by Aniporn in the “national costume” round at the pageant in December in the United States. It was the winning design from 356 entries in a contest held by Miss Universe Thailand.

The Miss Universe Thailand organization announced the winning design on its Facebook page recently, praising the outfit’s metallic look and use of 3D design technology. “The tuk-tuk dress will flash lights like a real tuk-tuk,” said Kaveerat Kunapat, a spokeswoman for Miss Universe Thailand. “It will be one of a kind.” She said a five-member panel of judges that included fine arts professors, fashion designers and Miss Thailand herself wanted to break from the past style of traditional Thai silk dresses and present something ‘eye-catching but still representative of Thailand’. Comments on internet forums have been less kind, with one critic notably describing it as ‘something out of Transformers’.

The man responsible for this two-stroke of genius, which has been lauded and ridiculed in equal part in the fashion crime courts of the internet, is Hirankrit Pattaraboriboonkul 35, a cultural scholar and aspiring designer, who denies he nicked the idea from George Michael’s ‘Get Funky’ video, which featured Thierry Mugler’s famous handlebar bustier dress, later adopted by Beyonce for her 'Sasha Fierce' schtick.

“I created this dress to make our representative more visible on stage and different from our past costumes with its pop-art design,” said Hirankrit. “I thought it was time to make a break from the past with a fresh and direct pop approach.

“I spent three days designing this dress and researching national costumes from previous years,” he said. “This is my first year joining the competition.” Apiporn agreed the costume would help a foreign audience recognize she is from Thailand.

Should she fail to bring the title back to Thailand, it might also facilitate a fast getaway.


Tuk Tuk Bang Bang. Digital painting. © Jason Gagliardi 

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