The Art Of Craft: Ruth E. Carter Breaks Down Series Of Early Sketches For ‘Black Panther’ Costumes

Posted: January 1, 2019 

"With over 40 film credits and two Oscar nominations to her name, costume designer Ruth E. Carter took on superhero scope for the first time with Ryan Coogler’s Marvel phenomenon Black Panther. Following T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)—a superhero and King-to-be in the technologically advanced, African nation of Wakanda—the Marvel pic hinged largely on one central question. That question, for Coogler, was: What does Africa mean to me? “For Ryan, it was an exploration of his own ideas about Africa, what he knew and what he didn’t know. That aspiration, for him, was important, to delve into culture, into things that are mysterious about Africa to people, and dispel a lot of those mysteries,” Carter explains. “To tell the stories of the vast tribal customs and beautiful traditions that we see across the continent.”

Crafting and sourcing around 1500 costumes for the project, Carter’s work embodies the international nature of its ambitions. For a film that moves between a fictional African kingdom, South Korea and the United States, she sent shoppers out to South Africa and Ghana, had outfits made in South Korea and Busan, and had embroidery done in Thailand. “We went around the world,” she says. “We really, actually bought from the source.” In early conversations with Coogler and Marvel’s Nate Moore, the conversation was “about Afrofuturism, about how we grew up and what our lives were like, as far as how it fit within the consciousness of African Diaspora,” Carter shares. “Ryan shared with me a story about seeing Malcolm X with his dad at the movies when he was a little boy, and how he remembered [my] costumes, and was really happy to meet me.”

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