Asia

Ho Ching: Singapore PM's wife chooses $11 pouch for state visit

First lady Michelle Obama directs Ho Ching, right, wife of Singapore"s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, where to stand during a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016 Image copyright AP
Image caption Ms Ho was seen carrying the blue and white dinosaur motif pouch at the arrival ceremony at the White House South Lawn

A blue, dinosaur-printed pouch, carried by Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore's PM on a state visit to the White House, has stolen the limelight.

Priced at just $11 (£8), the pouch was designed by a Singaporean student at Pathlight, the country's first autism-focused school.

PM Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Ho have been in Washington since Monday.

Initially, Ms Ho's choice of accessories was met with some criticism online.

But, once it was discovered to have been designed by 19-year-old Seetoh Sheng Jie of Pathlight, sales of the pouch jumped.

The school typically sells 200 pouches in four months, but sold 200 within a day after images of Ms Ho were shared widely, the school told the BBC.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Ho originally faced much criticism online for her choice in outfit

She was seen carrying the pouch at the arrival ceremony at the White House South Lawn, where President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama officially welcomed Mr Lee and Ms Ho to the US.

The pouch, which is sold on a platform run by the school to promote the talents of people with autism, has since sold out.

Pathlight's principal, Linda Kho, said the school was unaware that Mrs Lee would be taking the pouch, which she bought at a recent fundraising event, to Washington.

"We were pleasantly surprised and honoured that she chose to bring this bag on her official visit. It gave such a great mileage for the artist on our Artist Development Programme (ADP)," she told the BBC.

"[She] is known to be very down to earth and practical and the fact that she carries a less than $20 Singapore dollars pouch to such a world stage event shows she is really confident and authentic."

Image copyright Pathlight
Image caption The pouch retails for 14.80 Singapore dollars

Ms Ho originally faced much criticism online for her choice in outfit, with netizens quick to point out the difference in dressing between Mrs Obama and Ms Ho.

"[She] really could have chose something, well, more cheery," Dr Siew Tuck Wah, an aesthetics doctor said on Facebook. "We need to get a stylist for her please."

The Pathlight website describes Mr Seetoh as being "extremely pedantic about dinosaurs", with the illustrations drawn from his personal knowledge.

Mr Seetoh was "happy" to find out about the incident, according to his father Mr Jason Seetoh.

"His parents are understandably very proud and honoured," Ms Shae Hung Yee, Senior Manager, Student & Corporate Affairs at Pathlight school said.

Ms Ho is an adviser to the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) in Singapore, which helped set up the Pathlight school.

Reporting by Yvette Tan

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