Image Credit: Black Girl Nerds
At pivotal moments in culture, one can count on being able to look to the fashion industry to reflect the spirit of the times—the zeitgeist, as some would call it. Whether it be equality, human rights, feminism, political uprisings or pop culture moments, members of the fashion industry are always being cognizant of what’s going on in society for elements of inspiration for their next projects.
Image Credit: Elle, The Cut, Teen Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, i-D, Hypebeast
Ryan Coogler’s latest cinematic offering, Black Panther has garnered an immense amount of media attention, the message of its significance shining through and receiving constant praises across industries. This film is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and it has everyone excited to witness the greatness that is the Black Panther and the inhabitants of Wakanda. The film is particularly special to members of the black community, as it reinforces the power, influence, pride, freedom, royalty and resilience that are prevalent within the community. The Wakandan people are the representation of an uncolonized African nation, a manifestation of what could’ve been and a figurative example of what could be. It’s something to be excited about!
Image Credit: Variety
One of the most stunning elements necessary to the storyline is the wardrobe that was curated for the film. Renowned costume designer Ruth E. Carter did a phenomenal job in bringing the Afro-futuristic aesthetic to the Wakandan garb, while staying true to the voice of the comic. The fashions offset the perfect balance of rich, regal and African roots with futuristic elements. To create the wardrobe for Black Panther, Carter looked to elements of ancient African culture like the Maasai and Suri tribes, modern fashion designers like Gareth Pugh and Rick Owens, technological advancements like 3-D printing and much more. Drawing inspiration from African tribes and history, Carter’s research was extensive, as she wanted to capture the authenticity of African culture in the wardrobe; she wanted viewers to look at the attire and know its origin was Africa. Also influenced by black movements (a common thread in her work on films), Carter felt that she had a duty to black history and the community to get this element of the film right, being that Hollywood tends to forget or overlook the diversity present African countries in their portrayals. With Black Panther, Carter is piecing together the puzzle that is our history. “Black history didn’t start with slavery and end with the civil rights movement. I’m trying to put together that puzzle while considering everything that relates to us, including present stuff like the Black Lives Matter campaign.” Black Panther, for a multitude of reasons, isn’t like any other superhero movie, and I’m happy to be able to connect so deeply with it.
Image Credit: Entertainment Weekly, Mashable, Marvel
What I hope follows from the excitement of the Black Panther moment is the appreciation of and realization of the influence that African [American] cultures contribute time and time again to the fashion and beauty industries—and not an embarrassing display of cultural appropriation. Hopefully this leads to an increase in the representation of African American persons in these spaces, to finally have their moment and not just be a trend that fizzles in and out. The way to appeal to the urban market (black people) is to represent them effectively in all endeavors, not just profit off of their influence and call it inspiration or a new trend. When black people feel like they aren’t an afterthought or a gimmick, I feel we are more likely to support. Why do you think a brand like Fenty Beauty (and others with the framework of diverse, inclusive product offerings) is doing so well? Buying into products that properly reflect us and move us are important to the community. Seeing people that look like us featured in magazine spreads and ad campaigns, more than 3 of us on a runway, more than 3 variations of us represented, more of us at helms of or in higher places at publications, on marketing teams, in the big meetings, on big screens, working behind the scenes, having our stories told, shaping and shifting culture, having our words, perspectives and gifts valued, being so much more than just this cool persona you can put on and take off—these things matter!
I know that these industries are watching the success that Black Panther has already acquired. All to do now is wait to see what this culture moment will inspire. & just a friendly reminder to the fashion and beauty industries specifically: smart decisions are the right decisions; don’t mess up the moment!
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