Black Panther Wakanda Forever's Oscar Win is a Love Letter to
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Insight & Analysis - March 15, 2023

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s Oscar Win is a Love Letter to African Fashion 

From the stunning traditional isicholo worn by Queen Ramonda during her address to the United Nations to the mask of the “Midnight Angel” worn by Warrior Okoye, the costumes of Black Panther: Wakanda for Ever was a visual feast that paid homage to the rich cultural heritage of the African continent.

With the second entry in the Black Panther franchise ” taking home the award for Best Costume Design, one would say that the world is finally waking up to the incredible beauty and creativity of African fashion. The win which can be described as a powerful statement of pride, representation, and inclusivity for people of African descent all around the world has a special message for African Fashion. In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at the connotation of this impressive win and the importance of elevating African fashion.

Africans must embrace their local styles and fabrics 

The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie spotlights different local styles and fabrics in the African continent. Oscar-winning Costume designer Ruth E. Carter hinted that out of the thousands of tribes throughout the continent of Africa, they picked about 8-12 of them to represent the tribes of Wakanda. The movie which opens with the funeral of beloved King T’Challa, presented hundred of mourners draped in white, with each tribe distinguished by turbans, beads, fur and other adornments. The sea of white garments was created by the costume team department to resemble the traditional garb worn by tribes like the Zulu and Xhosa people of South Africa and the Tuareg and Dogon tribes in Mali. 

A closer look at the movie showcases the different fashion styles from different African countries, like South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana. The “Midnight Angel” costume worn by Warrior Okoye, was made by experimenting with countless versions from different parts of the African continent, including a mask style that looks like the masks of Benin or South Africa. The movie which creates a visually stunning experience hampers on the need for Africans to embrace their local styles and fabrics. By celebrating diversity, experimenting with different styles, and embracing sustainable fashion, Africans can promote the growth of the African fashion industry and showcase the beauty of their cultural heritage to the world. 

Africa’s fashion industry can capture the world  

Thus far, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has grossed $453.8 million in the United States and Canada and $405 million in other territories. This shows the potential of the African fashion industry to capture the attention of the world. Also, worthy of mention is how foreigners have rocked African fabrics at events. From the former first lady of the US, Michelle Obama wearing African prints to Gwen Stefani, an American Singer styled in African Prints at the New York Fashion Week and Rihana performing on stage in African fabric. With estimations that the revenue in Africa’s Fashion industry, will reach $8.26bn in 2023 and a prediction that the number of users in Africa’s Fashion segment is expected to reach 393.60 million users in 2027, Africa’s fashion industry is set to make a bold statement in continents across the world.

African fashion designers must continue to bridge the gap between old and modern styles 

The success of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at the Oscars is not just a testament to the growing recognition and appreciation of African fashion and culture. But, it is also a call for African fashion designers to sustain the relevance of old designs while holding the interest of the new generation. A look at how Carter blended the stunning sleeveless number with a 3D-printed isicholo (a traditional Zulu headdress worn by married women in South Africa) shows how beautiful a blend of old and modern styles will look.

African fashion designers must learn to use their creativity to fuse traditional elements with modern styles to create unique and contemporary pieces that still honour their heritage. They must also collaborate with local artisans to produce their designs and use sustainable materials like recycled fabrics, organic cotton and natural dyes in their designs. Interestingly, African fashion designers can explore new trends while maintaining their unique African style. 

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