We all have 99 problems, but Black Panther ain’t one. If you hopped on Twitter over the weekend, you’d find countless fans sharing saying how they showed up and showed out at the movie theater to see Marvel’s latest hit.
Ever since the first trailer dropped last year and Entertainment Weekly‘s cast photo reveal, social media hasn’t stopped celebrating. The constant discussion about how users will be decked out in their finest threads with the hashtag #BlackPantherSoLIT might be a top five Twitter moment.
Black Panther‘s Wakanda-themed LA premiere was a short glimpse of what opening weekend would be like. The red carpet was turned into a fashion show as stars from the film and celebrities in attendance showcased the most decorated display of black excellence, rocking African forms of dress. Daniel Kaluuya, who plays W’Kabi, wore a traditional East African Kanzu (a linen robe) beneath his velvet Burberry jacket. Meanwhile, David Oyelowo chose a traditional African tunic, Chadwick Boseman, the film’s titular star, chose a black, gold and purple printed shirt, while Lupita Nyong’o shined in a royal purple Atelier Versace gown.
For the culture, Black Panther is a phenomenon. An almost all black cast, black director, black superhero lead, releasing during Black History Month, and most importantly in my opinion, set in Africa. Where Black Panther really shines is it’s celebration of the African culture. Think Coming to America, but with much more action and a killer soundtrack.
That celebration reigns heavily in fashion. Similar to Eddie Murphy classic comedy, Black Panther is set in another fictional country, called Wakanda, and the depth of traditional African style is heavily focused. As director Ryan Coogler takes us on a journey through this hidden African-utopia, its several tribes are on full display. We have brightly patterned wax prints, neon-colored lip plates, and regal, elaborate headdresses, all incorporating aspects of different African cultures and traditions, visuals that exist beyond the Western imagination.
The movie’s costumes were designed by Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who sought inspiration in Africa, where she did her research, studying patterns, colors, beadwork and silhouettes. In an interview with WWD, she claims, “We wanted to explore and create the afrofuture-idyllic concept with Wakanda and make it a world like we have not seen before in cinema.”
She tells Elle, “Wakanda is a mountainous area; it’s a secret place that’s not necessarily trading and interacting with the rest of the world. They’re a little bit more advanced in technology than other civilizations. We are creating that world, and trying to create a culture and pride that feels authentic to the specific location.”
The film couldn’t come at a better time as fashion brands coming out of the mother land are making their dent in the industry. In 2018, Africa is in a sort of “diasporic renaissance.” Labels are breaking down barriers in its culture with non-gender collections, blending its European influence with African traditions, and using social themes of empowerment and individualism to shine a bright light on the nation and its people. These are all the attributes that makes Black Panther‘s Wakanda so special, and at the same time helping to shape new norms in men’s fashion.
Here are 5 African menswear brands that are Wakanda fresh.
The “prince of prints” Chu Suwannapha, is a South African Fashion designer behind the refreshingly bold, modern emerging African fashion brand Chulaap. Through each collection, the brand intends to send you into a state of sensory overload and cultural celebration of the continent with multi-colors, varied textures, zingy patterns and eclectic layering of beautiful African print fabric. If the brand swaps its signature tiger logo for a panther, King T’Calla would surely have Chulaap in his weekly rotation.
What would the richest superhero in the Marvel universe who is also an African King dress like? Fittingly, Chadwick Boseman’s character T’challa (Black Panther) is draped in Ikire Jones. The brand’s vision to adopt sacred and Renaissance art themes and merge it with black excellence is the perfect fit for the richest man on Earth. Like the film, black figures the focal point of Ikiré’s collections styled in adorned in royal robes, crowns with sacred symbols and jewels. He flips the roles of king and servant in what he calls “Africana Renaissance”.
“People on the African continent have become more aware of the strength that lies in reflecting our own traditions in our art. In turn, we’re increasingly seeing Westerners turn to us for inspiration,” Ikire tells us.
The quote is spot on with the movie as the world turns it eye to Wakanda as it’s home to the most valuable resource in the world, vibranium, and the most advanced technology.
Black Panther‘s glorious depiction of Wakanda envisions the Africa of black dreams. It’s a fictional utopia that’s idyllic, wealthy, a regally organized society, and technically advanced. One brand that depicts a similar vision is Abasi Rosborough. Designers Abdul Abasi and Greg Rosborough, who are American designers of Nigerian and Scottish origin, must’ve paid a visit to the fictional African nation in a dream because their FW18 collection is filled with pieces that belong in that world.
Their latest “Apolo Tabi” boots look like they were created by Shuri herself, in her lab alongside her brother T’Challa’s Nike Air Mag-inspired “sneak-ers.” The collection includes color-blocked jackets, wrapped head-scarves, and angularly cut-and-draped or bionically paneled pieces. The color features bold blues, yellows, and reds breaking a part black, navy, and camel color silhouettes.
“It’s about the duality and the dichotomy of things,” says Abasi. “The images that we used for this season show the progress of humanity, but at the end of it, we don’t know if it’s going to be a utopia or dystopia.”
Inspired by the landscape of rural Nigeria, Post Imperial‘s collections draw on a similar color palette as the beautiful vibrant Afro-futuristic Wakanda. Colors of clay, flora and marine are heavily used to represent the relationship between the villagers and their natural environment.
The brand was founded in 2012 by designer Niyi Okuboyejo, and started out with their signature brightly-colored ties, scarves, and handkerchiefs that were breaking necks at fashion weeks. Now, Post Imperial has an entire ready to wear collection. All of the fabrics used in Okuboyejo’s collection are dyed using a traditional Nigerian method called adire, which involves painting patterns by hand and dip-dyeing the cloth. It’s a fresh take on the traditional “Africana” style that’s always turning heads.
South African designer Lukhanyo Mdingi is making a name for himself with his namesake brand. Each collection is an assortment of minimalistic pieces that aims to show a sense of cross cultural influences of traditional designs; reflecting on a contemporary outlook of African landscapes. From his past womenswear collections like“Granite” and “Basics,” to his new menswear collections like “Taintless,” are mostly inspired by organic forms and the natural world.
The brand’s signature earth-toned color palette gives a strong resemblance to the different tribes that make up Wakanda. For example, the brand’s AW16 collection “Tactile,” which is inspired by the rural peaks and valleys of the Transkei gives off a similar aesthetic to the White Gorilla Cult, an outlawed Wakanda tribe living in a snowy mountainous terrain outside of the city. In the film, the tribe shows disdain for Wakanda’s futuristic high tech, and dress and live in a more traditional countryman lifestyle.
The White Gorilla Cult might not be welcome into the utopian country, but at least they can look stylish in Mdingi as they wave from the outside.
For more on Black Panther, here are all the easter eggs and references in the film.
- Main Image: Marvel / Disney