Saturday, March 10, 2007

Shed Sarong Party Girl Image

It's now clear that Singapore Airlines has no intention to change the image of its stewardesses despite the recent intense debate. The national airline said yesterday that the image of the Singapore Girl will remain although it has appointed a new marketing agency to handle its fat advertising campaign.

It's truly disappointing to leave the image intact although the Singapore Girl has been successful in personifying the image of the airline and the country. In fact, many continue to support the image although it has been subject to ridicule as well.

It doesn’t help, of course, that the Singapore Girl was created by a white man– British-born, Australian-bred adman Ian Batey – in 1972, forever sealing her fate as a Sarong Party Girl par excellence. Subservient, demure and bound by the feminine constrictions of her sarong kebaya, she promised a feast for the eyes in the skies. No wonder she took off.


The common perception that all Caucasians here, no matter where they come from, are overpaid booze-loving sex maniacs out to plunder our land and steal our women is partially the result of our own colonial panderings in the 1970s, when we willingly played ourselves up as creatures of the exotic East.

While our iconic maidens in sarong kebaya were whispering that they were “a great way to fly”, Singapore itself was luring tourists with brochures and ads of doe-eyed women sitting amid lush vegetation and holding baskets of fruit. In both cases, the sell was aimed at the white man, then the aspirational exemplar of big business.
The Straits Times writer Ong Soh Chin, 4 Feb 2007.

Whatever the argument, the kebaya image is no longer fresh. In fact, it looks rather similar to the kebaya uniform of the stewardesses of Malaysia Airlines.

But SIA didn't copy the Malaysian uniform. This is because the Singapore Girl was born in 1972, while the Malaysia Girl came into being in 1986.

Like their similar kebayas, the two airlines shared a common history. The two airlines came under the flag of Malaysia-Singapore Airlines for some five years before they split in 1971 due to irreconcilable differences. The airline merger lasted longer than the brief union of the two countries between 1963 and 1965.

While the two airlines have experienced vastly different fortunes since the split, it is important to maintain a unique image.

If Singapore Airlines is unwilling to tinker with its old image, perhaps Malaysia Airlines should take the bold step to do away with the outdated image of the Sarong Party Girl.


Anonymous said...

writer SPG herself.

Sophie said...

dear anonymous,

u saying miss ong or sophie is a SPG?


Anonymous said...

not sophie

Cool Insider said...

Interesting post Sophie. I didn't realise that Malaysian Airlines also had a Sarong Kebaya for its stewardesses, which shows how infrequently I take that airline (or travel for that matter). It will be quite difficult for SIA to shed its Singapore Girl imagery though as that has been the brand positioning for the longest time. Tinkering with it may help it to shed its "SPG" image, but I wonder if that was what led to its commercial success in the first place? said...

The guy is definitely just, and there's no doubt.

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