This year’s Miss Universe is a strong advocate for the environment. R’Bonney Gabriel is a model, sewing instructor, and environmentally friendly fashion designer, according to CNN.
Gabriel, who recently won the Miss Universe pageant, first made headlines last year when she became the first Filipino American Miss USA. She’s also a force for change in her community.
“I teach sewing classes to women that have survived from human trafficking and domestic violence,” she said during the last question segment of the competition. “It is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference.”
Gabriel puts that ideal into practice with her fashion designs. She strives to use recycled materials in her work and to cut down on pollution.
The fashion industry has come under fire for damaging the environment. Some designers, like TikToker Niharika Elety, are direct with their criticism.
Elety points out that mainstream fashion often relies on polluting oil products to create synthetic fabric while producing millions of tons of waste each year with fast-fashion trends.
Moving the fashion industry toward a more environmentally friendly model would make clothes last longer in general, since natural fibers like wool, cotton, and linen tend to be more durable than synthetic fabrics like polyester.
There is also a greater supply of plant- and animal-based fibers, since new plants can be grown and new animals can be raised. Meanwhile, most synthetic fabrics are made from oil, which exists in limited amounts. It also causes pollution when it’s extracted, so reducing its use is good for the environment.
More eco-conscious fashion would also mean less clothing going to landfills, since each piece would have a longer life, and old clothing could be recycled into new garments.
Gabriel isn’t the only Miss Universe contestant interested in environmentally friendly fashion. This year’s Miss Thailand, Anna Sueangam-iam, stunned the audience in a gown made from recycled metal pull tabs.