It’s not often that African fashion is notably appreciated and promoted on a global stage.
Other than stumbling across coverage of the breathtaking African styles featured at Afropunk Festivals and Fela Day celebrations, to those who don't live in Africa, these styles rarely appear on their radar.
Over the past few weeks, the commentary surrounding African fashion has elevated a great deal as Marvel’s Black Panther revealed images of African-costumes in anticipation of the film’s premiere.
Now, on the first day of Black Panther’s global release, African fashion has remained a topic of conversation as it proves to be one of the key elements that make the blockbuster so special.
African fashion in the context of the film has also extended to the fans who are turning out in droves to see it.
From the midnight showings to the matinees, moviegoers have arrived to watch Black Panther dressed head-to-toe in traditional African garb.
Kente cloth originating from the Akan people, dashikis from West Africa, and other African styles were prominently featured on fans who wished to keep with the theme of the film and accentuate an image of pride and respect for African heritage. Facial white dots, beaded jewelry, and South Africa's stunning springbok accessories also appeared in group selfies of people that came out to enjoy the film with their own Wakandan tribe.
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Designed by legendary costume designer, Ruth Carter, Black Panther looks were pulled from the traditional African wardrobes of the Sotho, Zulu, and Xhosa people. “We didn’t really have …a visual model of people living in Wakanda” said Carter in a recent interview for the Atlantic. “So it was kind of a fantasy or an imagined place for me. It was very intimidating. Creating a world is no joke.”
Ruth’s approach to creating a pan-Africanist aesthetic that was inclusive of various black cultures, including black people living in the diaspora, was skillfully executed in a way that respectfully and prominently reflects the distinct and equally stunning nature of each group.
In this same spirit, moviegoers outside of Africa took the opportunity to remix contemporary styles popularized in the diaspora and combine them with traditional African styles. Some fans wore all black and berets as an ode to the iconic uniforms donned by members of the Black Panther Party, and others repurposed kente cloth and attached it to the back of denim and leather.
The creativity that went into these outfits was not simply made out of costume (although there were a few amazing Black Panther catsuits floating around). Those who dressed up did so with the intention of celebrating a rare coupling of black heritage from around the world and the beauty that this portrayed on screen. Fans from Cape Town to New York wore styles that reflected their very own idea of Wakanda, and in the process, celebrated Africa's rich history and bright future.
As one Twitter user noted if you're thinking about dressing up to see the film consider supporting African businesses, like these blankets from Lesotho.