An unprecedented buzz surfaced online after Marvel teased their forthcoming film Black Panther with the first trailer last week. Stan Lee himself called Black Panther his “most anticipated” Marvel movie to date and he’s right.
We’re all here for it. 89 million of us in fact – according to YouTube and the broadcasters of the NBA finals, together with 349,000 +more trending tweets within the first 24 hours. Directed by Creed filmmaker Ryan Coogler, the cast boasts a highly-acclaimed, melanin rich array of talent from Lupita N’yongo to Micheal B. Jordan, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Brit Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Chadwick Boseman and more.
The storyline is one that shakes up the usual Marvel concepts. Black Panther: King of Wakanda spotlights a fictional third world nation in Africa – the movie digs deep into African royalty, culture customs and narrative. From the names, to the tribal jewellery and embellishments, to the furniture and architecture… and the spears!
What caught our eye immediately, however, is the choice of wardrobe for the movie. What the characters wear has sealed the deal in establishing the imagery of an African nation. Marvel makes a bold statement by recruiting renowned designer Walé Oyéjidé of fashion brand Ikiré Jones. Setting the narrative in stone, without appropriation, it’s as if the story is being told through style – just the way James Bond would speak to us subconsciously wearing a tux with just the right watch.
The brand is the brainchild of Nigerian designer Walé Oyéjidé (Afrobeat musician and lawyer) and Samuel Hubler (tailor). Each, with a seasoned collections, are designers who know for sure what works best for a setting like Wakanda. Ikiré Jones “marries West African with artistic influences….from across the globe”. Grounded in story-telling, the brand delves into controversial issues such as African identity and immigration.
One way to describe Ikiré Jones? Representing the immigrants dream. Specifically, the African Dream. Jones fly-kicks down barriers by adopting sacred and Renaissance art – predominantly (if not always) of white men. Then they reimagine them – making black figures the focal points of each artwork. Black women on the prints can be seen adorned in royal robes, crowned with sacred halos, with white men bowing in awe. Ikiré Jones call it “Africana Renaissance”. Fittingly, Boseman’s character T’challa (Black Panther) is draped in one of these scarves as he addresses a United Nations conference. Translation: The Africana renaissance is now on the global platform.
The brand conceptually tears original artworks from the dreary walls of museums and auctions, to make for wearable graphic art. Take their Borders biker jackets. It speaks volumes regarding those who came from Africa to the West. The immigrants who had to somehow make a newfound culture their own. Jones’ latest collection “Born Between Borders” encapsulates the story of migrants working two jobs to make ends meet. A profound story which many of us know too well. Not forgetting we are the 2nd generation, who “watched foreign-tongued parents struggling to ascend the precarious ladders of …society”.
WE CARRY OUR PARENTS DREAMS WITH US;
THAT NO ONE CAN LOOK PAST.
THERE ARE NO TABLES WE WILL NOT OVERTURN
AND THERE ARE NO LOCKED DOORS
WE WILL NOT DISLODGE.
For each collection, Jones invest in rich European textures and remake them to fit the love for textiles and print in Africa. Be sure to see zebra print, eccentric colours, tribal markings throughout their portfolio.
In due time, we’ll be seeing just how the Ikiré Jones ethos and love for vibrant African print paired with provocative design, will be incorporated into Ruth E. Carter’s costume design for the Black Panther movie. Will they still be able to convey an array of socio-political and cultural views via a fictional character from a fictional country? In a recent interview with OkayPlayer, Walé explains “I think the beauty of Black Panther, is that even though it’s fantastical, it at least opens people’s minds to the idea that people of African descent can be villains, they can be superheroes, they can be rich they can be poor. They can be whole, complicated humans and nuanced, just as people are from other heritages.”
Till that time, Marvel are gathering up much kudos. The producers could easily have played it safe and hired an ignorant costumer from Broadway. This decision is sure to bring a new cultural movement to film and design, and add more reason for us to wait with anticipation.
Black Panther is due to hit cinemas in February 2018.