South African contestant Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday night at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. Runners-up were Madison Anderson Berríos representing Puerto Rico and Miss Mexico, Sofía Aragón. When I saw the news, I looked up bits from the pageant and was blown away by Miss Puerto Rico’s choice for the national costume section. As much as I have laughed at the extravagance and surrealism of some of these costumes, there was something about this specific outfit that “got to me.” Perhaps it resonated with the destruction of flora and fauna after Hurricane María (not to mention all the human dangers hacking away at the natural world). I was amazed at the ingenuity of designer Joshuan Aponte, whose creation centered on the Puerto Rican hibiscus and the golden coqui. (Little did I know that the dress included audio effects to sound like our beloved coquí.) Here is a description from an article by Mónica Tirado (Hola!).
[. . .] The gown – created by fashion designer Joshuan Aponte in collaboration with a great team of craftsmen – replicates the national flower of the country, Puerto Rico’s hibiscus, and it’s simply a work of art.
The designer also shared on social media some of the details about the design process of the intricate gown: “The color palette reflects Puerto Rico’s diversity in nature, the golden coqui, whose scientific name is Eleutherodactylus jasperi, the living example of the Caribbean island’s most distinctive landscape is also there,” says Aponte regarding the golden frog displayed on the dress’ bodice.
“The green and the red represent Puerto Rico’s hibiscus, the national symbol, very carefully treated, with delicate light fabrics to also replicate the freshness of the country’s mountains.”
The impressive gown is not a feast for the eyes, but the ears too! It also includes audio effects thanks to a Bluetooth device that will replicate the sounds made by the golden coqui. Showing the high-tech skills used to fabricate the costume – that took eight months to be created – the outfit is topped off by a giant 3D printed pistil-shaped headpiece.