Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel won the 71st Miss Universe title on Saturday.
During the pageant, she wore a homemade swimsuit cape she designed herself using plastic bottles.
Gabriel, 28, said she did it to "showcase how art can be made out of what we perceive as trash."
Before winning the Miss Universe crown, Miss USA R'Bonney Gabriel wowed the audience with a homemade design during the swimsuit competition.
Gabriel was named the winner of the 71st Miss Universe pageant on Saturday night in New Orleans. Miss Venezuela, Amanda Dudamel, was the runner-up, followed by Miss Dominican Republic, Andreína Martínez.
But before becoming the first American to win Miss Universe in a decade, the model, fashion designer, and sewing instructor from Houston made her mark in the swimwear segment by sporting a cape she created using recyclable materials.
Sharing an insight of the design process on Instagram, Gabriel wrote that the cape was "sustainably dyed and designed using plastic bottles." The video has 42,000 likes since she posted it on Saturday.
"I gathered and transformed this cape to showcase how art can be made out of what we perceive as trash," she added. "It also embodies my favorite message of 'If Not Now, Then When?'" The motto is visibly printed on the back of the orange cape.
In the clip, set to Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain," Gabriel showed how she used a flame from a candle to shape the plastic bottles and used orange dyes to color the fabric of her cape herself.
"I designed this swimsuit cape inspired by the story of the Phoenix Rising, who emerged from adversity to become stronger, smarter and more powerful," she wrote in the caption. "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."
Gabriel also said she spent 10 days in the lead-up to the pageant working on her cape design and even spent Christmas Day dyeing the fabric of the cape to look like flames, according to her Instagram stories.
On top of using recycled plastic, she also worked with sustainably sourced wire and netting to construct the eye-catching piece.
Gabriel spoke about her passion for sustainable design in the final question round on Saturday, Insider's Anneta Konstantinides reported.
"As a very passionate designer, I've been sewing for 13 years, I use fashion as a force for good. In my industry, I'm cutting down on pollution through recycled materials when I make my clothing. I teach sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence," Gabriel said.
"And I say that because it is so important to invest in others," she added. "Invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference. 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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