Wakandan Swag - Is Black Panther’s Afro-futuristic look is just as multilayered as the film's plot and themes?
So… It’s been a while and I’m still obsessing over Black Panther.
Like, if I can be gush for a moment, I think it’s now probably my favorite superhero flick ever, and (as the resident black nerd at this site) that comes from someone who has boatloads of experience when it comes to that sort of thing.
Despite my black nerd status, I am still you folks resident fashion blogger. Thankfully, the film Black Panther has some phenomenal style and costuming. This gives me the rare pleasure of getting to talk about fashion and getting to nerd out at the same time...my heart smiles today.
Black Panther takes a lot of interesting routes when it comes to fashion. Whether its using symbolism through color or combining traditional African styles of clothing with motifs from other cultures, there’s a lot for the creative mind to chow down on in this film.
First, let's discuss Afrofuturism as a concept. You hear the word thrown about a lot nowadays, but some folks don’t know what it means. The simple version is that it’s essentially science fiction stories that, regardless of their medium, have plot elements, themes, and concepts framed around the black experience.
Since blacks are often relegated, at best, to supporting or background roles in science fiction, you don’t see a lot of story focus put on them as an individual, let alone how their identity as a person of color fits into the larger narrative.
Afrofuturism solves this problem by, not only finally giving such characters some long needed development, but also combining styles from across the diaspora with the aesthetics found in films like Star Wars and Star Trek.
This combination of blackness and SciFi gives us Afrofuturism.
Now Let’s talk about that aforementioned symbolism in color. There are minor spoilers ahead, by the way.
One of my favorite scenes in this film is the casino scene where T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Nakia (Lupita Nyongo), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) enter a casino to intercept a vibranium deal.
Though the action scene that follows defies description due to how epic it is, there’s an interesting nod that only the keen-eyed watcher would have noticed.
In this scene, T’challa sports a stylish all black suit befitting an African warrior king. Nakia rocks a sexy bodycon cocktail dress covered in green Wakandan writing. Last but far from least, Okoye wears a flowing red evening gown with gold jewelry that sharply contrasts with her rough and rigid bodyguard attire.
Notice the theme? For those who didn’t here’s a reminder: T’challa, Okoye, and Nakia are wearing red, black, and green respectively. These are the colors of the Pan African flag. This color choice was deliberately made by the director and costume department in order to honor the concept of Pan Africanism.
The costume designer for the film was a woman by the name of Ruth E. Carter. She created the costumes for Black Panther with a plethora of assistants from places like Africa, South Korea, and India.
In order to bring to life some of the futuristic designs portrayed in Jack Kirby era Black Panther comics, many of the film’s costume designers melded aspects of their own cultural garb, the lightweight breathable kevlar designs often found in contemporary superhero films, and African styles.
The best example of this can be found with Okoye’s Elite group: The Dora Milaje.
Designer Anthony Francisco drew inspiration from a number of Asian cultures to create aspects of the groups costumes.
Whether it was the Japanese samurai inspired shoulder pads, the weaving of the “vibranium” on their breast covering resembling traditional African designs, or the native Filipino-style beading on the tabard, there’s a ton of literal and metaphorical layers sewn into the costuming in this film.
The brilliant team of individuals that came together to create these looks, to me, clearly poured their heart and soul into making Wakanda a reality.
Their efforts created a world rich in culture and beauty. A world that can and likely will inspire generations of youth for decades to come. I’m truly proud to live in this time and I’ll be grateful to see more films like Marvel's Black Panther.
Article by Rovell Vialva