The new Miss Universe, R'Bonney Gabriel, designed her swimsuit look using sustainable dyes and plastic bottles

Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel used sustainable dyes and plastic bottles to create a swimsuit cape for the Miss Universe pageant, which she won. (Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel used sustainable dyes and plastic bottles to create a swimsuit cape for the Miss Universe pageant, which she won. (Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

She may be the newly crowned Miss Universe, but R'Bonney Gabriel is putting Planet Earth first. In addition to serving as Miss Texas USA and Miss USA, the pageant queen runs her own eco-friendly clothing line, which she put to good use during Saturday night's Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans.

During the swimsuit portion of the competition, Gabriel — who, per pageant officials, is the first Filipino American woman to serve as Miss USA — hit the stage in a bright orange one-shoulder swimsuit with a cutout midriff. The suit was paired with a dramatic cape designed by Gabriel herself, using sustainable dyes and plastic bottles to demonstrate "how art can be made out of what we perceive as trash." The cape also featured a message expressing the urgency to make change: "If Not Now, Then When?"

Gabriel documented the process of making the swimsuit cape — which was inspired by the story of a phoenix rising from the ashes — on Instagram Saturday.

"I designed this swimsuit cape inspired by the story of the Phoenix Rising who emerged from adversity to become stronger, smarter and more powerful," Gabriel wrote. "I’ve kept this in mind during my journey through pageantry. Setbacks will always happen in life but we can choose whether to let them bring us down or use them as fuel to rise.

"Sustainably dyed and designed using plastic bottles, I gathered and transformed this cape to showcase how art can be made out of what we perceive as trash. It also embodies my favorite message of 'If Not Now, Then When?'" she continued.

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The 28-year-old's post includes video footage showing her using natural dyes to give the cape a fiery, tie-dyed effect, while plastic bottles were cut up and molded to create a sculptural collar.

The beauty queen and ethical fashion advocate also shared how she upcycled a friend's jacket and an old jumpsuit she already owned to create one of her Miss Universal rehearsal looks.

"Instead of buying another outfit, I made something new with a jumpsuit I already had," Gabriel said of the bold all-black ensemble. "We consume over 400% more clothing than 2 decades ago, and many of this clothing ends up in the trash. I believe we can all make a conscious effort to not over consume things we really don’t need, and cherish the things we already have. We can adapt this mindset in our life and be a #ForceForGood.

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During the Miss Universe pageant, Gabriel spoke of her commitment to using her fashion skills for good, from working as a sewing instructor for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking to using sustainable and recyclable materials in her clothing line.

"It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community and use your unique talent to make a difference," she told judges. "We all have something special, and when we plant those seeds to other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change."

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