Welcome To Wakanda: Fashion For The Black Panther Era

Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images.
And the Black Panther momentum just keeps on building. During New York Fashion Week, a handful designers created bespoke collections inspired by Marvel’s first Black superhero, Black Panther. And like the movie’s L.A. premiere that put every other red carpet to shame, the one-of-a-kind Chromat, Cushnie et Ochs, Fear of God, Ikiré Jones, LaQuan Smith, Sophie Theallet, and Tome looks speak not only to each labels' dedication to empowerment and individualism through fashion, but interpreted different characters and themes from the movie. The outfit will all be auctioned off on Charitybuzz to benefit Save the Children, an international humanitarian organization giving children a fresh start in life, to learn in a safe, protected environment.
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The looks came to life on Monday in an immersive display dubbed ‘Welcome to Wakanda.' “Black Panther is visually stunning, from the backdrop of Wakanda to the beautiful, intricate costumes, with technology playing an important role throughout,” Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of Disney consumer products and interactive media, said in a press release. “Each of our partners has taken inspiration from the incredible storytelling, empowering characters and iconic look of the movie, while bringing their own unique aesthetic to the designs.”
Similar to the sentiments Kendrick Lamar, who produced the film, shared with the The Verge (he called Ryan Coogler’s film a “great marriage of art and culture),” there is no better visual representation of what all of these things mean to the culture at-large than this presentation, with its emphasis on diversity. Black designers lead the majority of the charge, recreating what an outfit in Wakanda could, and in this instance, would look like.
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Tome

"This isn’t the first time we designed for Black women or powerful women, as they’ve been part of the DNA of the woman that we speak to,” designer Ryan Lobo said. "So to take it to the scale of a huge Hollywood feature is super-exciting and different from our day-to-day existence. Because we saw shorts from the film in the middle of the design process, we really began with our obsession with the Black Panthers (movement) and Angela Davis. The notion there is this fierce elegant warrior woman in the world. It was a starting point for what we do, so we created body armor so she can go out in the world and do what she needs to do.”
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LaQuan Smith

“When I first got the call, I [started] sketching right away. I was doing, like, full avant-garde, lace...I didn’t know which direction to really go in,” Smiths says, noting that he fell back into what he knew: thigh-high slit cocktail dresses, updated in dashiki print. “I was like wait, maybe that’s too literal.” But where he landed is a level of dominance and powerful. And since trench coats make him feel powerful, he chose to design an overcoat: “It’s a good piece and its transitional,” he says.
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Chromat

“I immediately thought of a strong, unapologetic African Chromat babe, and I [specifically] thought of my mother, who wore African garb,” Tolulope Amara, Chromat’s head designer, explains. “I wanted to have a Nigerian Chromat babe look,” she says of the orange neoprene and Ankara fabric gown.
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Ikiré Jones

“We knew what the character was going to be,” designer Walé Oyéjidé, Esq says of his jumping off point. “It was very much in line with what we do anyway, just making this very bold, contemporary, African inspired statement. When people think about African [fashion], they think about waxed prints and very monolithic things [like that], which are beautiful, but we wanted to bring it to 2018 and beyond.”

He was able to do so with a piece that drew inspiration from the African continent but also as the global influences today. “It’s like, what would a regal person who travels the world look like today?” he says of his final look. “We’re bringing ourselves into this sphere while still thinking of ourselves but still taking elements from wherever we happen to be.”
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Cushnie Et Ochs

“It was amazing to design for such powerful women because in the film, they are really part of [the plot], it’s not just the Black Panther working by himself,” Carly Cushnie says. “We went in knowing there were strong characters and strong females in the movie but we had purchased this really special gold lame fabric,” Michelle Ochs adds.

“Actually, we got it for our 10 year anniversary show, it was something special that was unique to us. When we saw the film, we knew we wanted to set it aside and have it be for this film. It was such a perfect fabric for it to look like a piece of armor, the perfect fabric for women warriors and with the heart-shaped herb,” Ochs continues. “We wanted to have some sort of embellishment to show the strength and femininity of the characters.”
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