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Leaders choose suits over exclusive aloha design

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 2:13 p.m. HST, Nov 14, 2011

There was no aloha for aloha shirts Sunday as world leaders, for the second year in a row, discarded the tradition of appearing in locale-specific attire for their "family photo" to wrap up the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation annual summit.

Leaders from the 21 member nations all took to the photo platform in dark suits with individual tie selections, save for one: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who wore a white blazer over a reddish blouse.

The subject of whether leaders would wear the colorful island-print shirts was a hot topic as the summit drew toward Sunday's group photo. President Bill Clinton began the tradition of wearing local garb for the photo when APEC began in 1993.

There had been some speculation that aloha shirts would be scrapped to avoid the appearance of world leaders acting frivolously during a time of economic austerity.

Asked at a press conference about the decision, Obama said Sunday that leaders were given a shirt, "and if they wanted to wear the shirt, I promise you it would've been fine. But I didn't hear a lot of complaints about us breaking precedent on that one."

Obama said he had looked at past family photo outfits, "and I thought, ‘This may be a tradition that we might want to break.'" Leaders at last year's meetings, in Yokohama, Japan, also ditched traditional-style garb.

Honolulu-based Tori Richard Ltd., which designed aloha shirts worn by organizers and volunteers for APEC, also was commissioned by the White House to design a special APEC-themed shirt for the 21 world leaders, said Josh Feldman, company president.

"We produced 21 shirts in the design that at the White House's request we not show to the public until the leaders were given the shirt as a gift," Feldman said in an email. "While we are disappointed a decision was made not to wear them for the iconic photo, we were still honored to be selected."

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