DESPITE coming from one of Asia’s wealthiest economies, the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has gained praise from the public after she appeared at the White House with a purse that cost less than SG$15 (roughly US$11) during the couple’s official visit to the United States.
The purse, carried by Mrs Lee during an official ceremony hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, was sold at The Art Faculty in Singapore, an online store that sells artwork crafted by disabled and autistic students at the Pathlight School.
Under the program, students may receive royalties on sales of their designs and enhance their art skills.
The purse, which featured a dinosaur motif, was made by Seetoh Sheng Jie, 19, a student with a keen interest in designs with prehistoric animals.
Pathlight senior vice-principal Loy Sheau-Mei was quoted in the Straits Times as saying that See Toh’s parents are “very proud and honored”.
Loy, who is in charge of the school’s artist development program, said: “The fact that she carries a pouch that is less than $20 to such a world event shows she is really confident and authentic.”
According to the paper, Mrs Lee is an adviser to Pathlight’s parent organisation, the Autism Resource Centre, and a patron of the Autism Association Singapore. Mrs Lee was also reported to have bought the purse at a recent fundraiser.
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Meanwhile, Michelle opted for a strapless, unadorned ivory gown by American designer Brandon Maxwell, longtime stylist to singer Lady Gaga and a red carpet favorite, for Tuesday’s state dinner.
The black-tie dinner, in honor of Singapore’s First Couple, was the 12th state dinner for the Obamas. It also marked the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between the U.S. and Singapore, an island nation of about 5.7 million people.
Maxwell, originally from Longview, Texas, earned his name as Lady Gaga’s stylist, but has since become a red carpet favorite, dressing stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kristen Wiig and Uma Thurman, among others.
Additional reporting from Associated Press