Miss Thailand's Daring Recycled Pop Tab Dress

Miss Thailand Dress made of Recycled Pop Tabs and Diamonds

It’s not easy to win the Miss Universe pageant. Contestants competing from all over the world, each with her own beauty, ambition and a clearly-defined plan to win the crown. In this year's rarefied competition, we were cheering for Miss Thailand, Anna Sueangam-iam to win. She wore a daring dress made of up-cycled soda tabs which was a metaphor for her incredible life story.

Photo credit: Miss Universe Thailand Official Instagram Account

In the preliminary attire round for the 2022 Miss Universe pageant held in New Orleans, Sueangam-iam wore a dress with the name, Hidden Precious Diamond Diamond, and it was meticulously crafted from up-cycled aluminum pop tabs with Swarovski crystals.

Anna's personal statement about the gown on Instagram:

This gown was inspired by the familiar surroundings of my childhood. Growing up with garbage collector parents, my life as a child was among piles of garbage and recyclables. This unique gown was purposefully tailored-made with discarded and recycled materials, namely the ‘Can Tab’ to present to the UNIVERSE that what’s considered worthless by many actually possesses its own value and beauty. Thank you all for seeing it, hearing it, and hopefully being that message of self-worth”.

Photo credit: MANIRAT and Arif Jehwang

The pressure to win Miss Universe is always intense for contestants but also intense for the designer Arif Jehwang and Thai fashion brand MANIRAT. They designed the costume for Miss Thailand but were also representing the national honor of Thailand. It's a daring gamble to make a Miss Universe dress from recycled pop tabs. What if there's a 'wardrobe malfunction'? (We made a pop tab dress for Daryl Hannah for the Venice Film Festival and know the potential risks involved). In the end the dress went viral and served as a strategic tool to differentiate Anna from the other contestants. Not only did the perfectly fitted aluminum soda tab dress look stunning on Sueangam-iam it helped to create an impression in the minds of the judges. .

Photo credit: Insider.com

Within the strict time limits and structure of the Miss Universe competition, this attention-grabbing recycled dress effectively told Anna's story without words. According to her biography on the Miss Universe site, Anna Sueangam-iam was born and lived as a child in a slum in Bangkok. She was raised by her father, a garbage collector, mother who worked as a street-sweeper and great-grandmother, a nun. Anna's family ultimately sent her to live in a temple to safeguard against the dangers of her surroundings. At the temple her meals consisted of leftover food from the monks, something that most people would consider waste.

Photo credit: Miss Universe Thailand Official Instagram Account

From this destitute beginning Sueangam-iam perservered and rose to participate in the top beauty competition in the world. She explains her will to overcome – ““You must not get stuck with murky surroundings you were born into, but do believe you have the power to change your own life for the better.”

Photo credit: Miss Universe Thailand Official Instagram Account

The designer, Arif Jehwang and the Thai fashion brand MANIRAT appear to be just the right partners for Anna; they’re scrappy and willing to take chances. Jehwang's post on Facebook shows his excitement and honor to design for this important project:

“My first beauty queen night dress in my life and today I got to see it on the universe stage. HIDDEN PRECIOUS DIAMOND DRESS. A dress is made from recycled materials. It is more than a dress. It is a soul. Ready to work with Anna. Only Anna can wear it perfectly. A dress communicates identity and inspires change”.

Arif Jehwang's inspiration board from Facebook

Here is a glimpse into Arif Jehwang's creative process. His gown is made with aluminum soda tabs that are connected with rings and embellished with Swarovski crystals. The finishing of the tabs and crystals is consistently elegant and perfectly executed throughout each inch of the garment.

alt="miss universe dress made from recycled aluminum soda tabs"

Arif Jehwang's final sketch from Facebook

Inspiration boards and sketches sometimes over-promise what the finished dress will look like. In this case the opposite is true, the gown looks better than vintage Paco Rabanne metal dresses and everything else on the inspiration board.

Miss Universe 2022 competition has already concluded and unfortunately Miss Thailand did not win. But for us, Sueangam-iam is already a winner. The name of the dress 'Hidden Precious Diamond' is a metaphor for you and your ability to overcome life's challenges. Congratulations to Miss Thailand, Anna Sueangam-iam and your team.


Further reading:

Anna Sueangam-iam Miss Universe Bio

Miss Universe Thailand Instagram Account


Project Runway's Chris March


  • Cindy

    Own several wonderful ESCAMA pieces myself, and speak about them often. This is such a cool story. The dress is simply stunning, and as you say: brings a message many had not even considered…recycling is literally – a beautiful thing!

  • Cindy

    Own several wonderful ESCAMA pieces myself, and speak about them often. This is such a cool story. The dress is simply stunning, and as you say: brings a message many had not even considered…recycling is literally – a beautiful thing!

  • Lindsay

    Absolutely brilliant! Just love it.

  • Sandra


  • Maureen Kidd

    As an owner of many pop-tab items I can’t imagine how beautiful this dress must be mixed with crystals. A beautiful back story as well. Good luck. M

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