Designer Paul Cabral's barong designs for APEC leaders

The shirt of China's Xi Jinping features tall bamboo with cascading leaves while Malaysia's Najib Razak boasts warrior shields from Sarawak.

Chinese president Xi JinPing. Rappler screengrab

Chinese president Xi JinPing.

Rappler screengrab

Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak. Rappler screengrab

Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak.

Rappler screengrab

But the most important detail in the shirts for those wearing them may not be the intricate embroidery. Paul said he secretly sewed a satin lining on the tough collars to prevent itching.

DETAILS. The embroidery on the Paul Cabral's barong designs. Rappler screengrab

DETAILS. The embroidery on the Paul Cabral's barong designs.

Rappler screengrab

The cloth of a barong is made from the hard, spiked leaves from the pineapple's crown, which are pounded and dried. But for the leaders' shirts, Paul has mixed it with silk to make it more comfortable.

Posted by APEC 2015 Philippines on Sunday, November 8, 2015

 

Posted by APEC 2015 Philippines on Sunday, November 8, 2015

 

No greater honor: Paul Cabral on dressing the 21 APEC Economic Leaders. https://t.co/nuA33o0GPg #APEC2015 pic.twitter.com/VvQLxzSSzk — APEC 2015 (@apec2015ph) November 9, 2015

 

Aside from the world leaders, Paul also designed outfits for the leaders' spouses, and the clothes do also feature a cultural touch.  The garment to be worn by Akie Abe, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife, was inspired by the country's popular cherry blossom festival. 

Shaking off the APEC red carpet's reputation as a worst-dressed parade will be a tall order for Paul if past attempts are anything to go by. 

Last year, the tunics worn by the leaders in China went viral on the Internet for resembling Star Trek uniforms.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis in 2008, the ponchos worn by the leaders in Peru were ridiculed as potato sacks, while global power players looked visibly uncomfortable two years earlier as they shuffled onto the stage for a photo-op wearing Vietnam's "ao dai" tunics. 

The tradition harks back to 1993 when US President Bill Clinton put his APEC colleagues in leather bomber jackets – the kind worn by World War II fighter pilots. 

But Paul said he was confident that his design would not be the butt of jokes. 

"I'm not at all worried. I just concentrated on my job," he told AFP.  

Aside from Paul, renowned designer Kenneth Cobonpue will also be part of the summit, as creative director of the APEC Economic Leaders' Welcome Dinner on Wednesday, November 18. Filipino talents are also expected to perform in a few events planned throughout the duration of the summit. – with reports from AFP/Rappler.com