It has been four years since we last visited Wakanda and saw each tribe of the fictional African country brought to life through immaculate costumes and visionary styling. For Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter did it again. Once again, the legendary designer leads wardrobing for the sequel and intertwines tributes to the late Chadwick Boseman through the film’s costuming. Not only does she bring Wakanda back to life but she also developed the costumes for the underwater universe of Talokan, the community of the film’s villain, Namor (played by Tenoch Heurta). It was no easy feat to elevate both fictionalized worlds which are heavily inspired by real cultures. It took extensive research to get the costuming just right, especially for the film’s many underwater scenes.
In Wakanda Forever, we watch Princess Shuri (played by Letitia Wright) navigate her emotions of grief, sadness, and anger after her brother passes and she throws herself into work. Her personal style has grown and elevated since the first movie. When we were first introduced to Princess Shuri, she was in her STEM mode, designing T’Challa’s Black Panther suit and gadgets. We know she’s not a fan of her ceremonial attire but is seen mostly wearing dresses or skirts. In this film, Shuri is no longer the 16-year-old we met in Black Panther. Now in her 20s (remember the blip from Thanos’s snap?), Shuri still prefers casual clothing and only wears her royal attire during traditional ceremonies.
“The opportunity to work with Marvel and Ruth was incredible, we wanted to focus on technology and lean into the performance and action movements of the characters,” Cheresse Thornhill-Goldson, Adidas S.E.E.D Design Director, shared with Unbothered. “Ruth was able to share with us what Shuri would be going through as well as that the overall theme of the movie would be woman focused. This allowed us to continue to incorporate color and the innovative materials that were used for the bodysuit, flight suit, and shoes worn.”
Ruth E. Carter spoke with Unbothered about expanding Shuri’s personal style for the sequel, collaborating with Adidas, and how she continued to infuse Afrofuturism into the film.
Unbothered: For Wakanda Forever, what were the key inspirations and elements you wanted to focus on for Shuri’s look?
Ruth E. Carter: “This is a film about grief, especially seen through the eyes of Shuri and I feel like we didn't bring too much attention to the clothing. We approach this from more of a somber color palette to bring more of the attention to the emotions of the scenes. We started with grays and purple (the royal color), creating the tracksuit that she would wear on the motorcycle together. However, it's not bright and shiny, instead more of a muted purple with some blue in it. We didn’t want to disturb the emotionality of the story and S.E.E.D really understood that it is more than just putting a product on a screen but how the designs could play into the bigger picture of the film itself.”
Since we were introduced to Shuri in the lab and mostly saw her in her tribal wear in the first Black Panther, can you share what your process was when costuming her overall and showcasing more of her personal style in Wakanda Forever?
RC: “We learned in the first film that Shuri is bored with tradition when she said in the first film ‘oh, this corset is uncomfortable.’ When it comes to fashion, she's more into the tech side of it. In the first film she wore a lot of layers. So for the sequel her protective layers were still there. When she went out into the bush with her mother, Queen Ramonda [played by Angela Bassett] we felt like it would be awesome for her to have her own futuristic look that wasn’t traditional. Her ensembles were a great mixture of tribal colors and technology pushing forward the innovative feel of Shuri’s story.”
What were some of the challenges you faced as you continued to infuse Afrofuturism and technology in the costuming throughout Wakanda Forever?
RC: “It was a dream come true to create these ceremonial costumes for Namor. I was excited to learn so much about the Mayan culture and infuse the hieroglyphics onto the costumes for an immersive experience underwater. There were a lot of artists that went into the creation of these costumes, and we examined costume illustrations over and over and over again until we felt like we've got what we want to create. I got to actually bring all of those chosen illustrations to fruition but I have to be very careful about how they looked so that we did not misrepresent the culture. This was something new and a big overarching challenge for me working on this film.”