The incredible costume designer of Marvel’s Black Panther motion picture, Ruth E. Carter, sat with an exclusive, artsy audience at Los Angeles’ Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) to discuss how she managed to capture the looks of our lovely African Queens from the movie.
She mentioned her journey throughout Southern Africa to discover and get permission from women in the Hemba tribe to design with their traditions in mind. Carter also had shoppers across the continent retrieving the most original African pieces that fit the film’s need. Over 1,500 costumes were created for characters and extras.
Here are 3 things I took from her talk and how we can truly own our craft as the Queens we are.
“Queens should always have armor.”
When Ruth created the ‘costumes that don’t look like costumes’ for the women of Black Panther she was empowered when creating Queen Ramonda’s gown.
Ruth felt it was important that all Queens have armors just as Kings do.
Mentally and Physically, women protect everything we are, everything we stand for, and everything we own. Their armor is not just fashion.
2. "You’re Smart, you’re beautiful, you’re intelligent, you’re creative."
Taking a clip from the movie “The Help,” Ruth mentioned she tells this to her daughter every night as she told herself at times growing up.
Now those who want to work with Ruth because of her skillset tell her the exact same thing.
Nakia from the Black Panther film was admired as a character that resonated with the beauty of Black women everywhere. Isn’t it a beautiful thing to be the Queen you dreamed to be and told yourself you are?
3. "Be a student of your passion."
Ruth shares this with a guest of the audience how they can maintain being their best self in the creative field. She encourages everyone to keep learning and study your passion forever like a student.
Okoye from the Oscar-nominated Black Panther film protected everything African Kings and Queens could’ve been and ultimately still can be. Just like Okoye, you can study and reign in your own right by doing and knowing everything you can to serve others.
What’s beautiful about Ruth E. Carter’s work and her commitment to living out the beauty of African women and their traditions is that she ‘never froze’ and didn’t give up on finding the perfect way to display the continent. Thank you Ruth for respecting the many things our ancestors stand for.
If you’re in Los Angeles or visiting the City of Angels, you can see her work at FIDM’s annual Oscars exhibition.