Ruth E. Carter’s work on the latest Black Panther film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, has surpassed her efforts on the previous installment. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, the costume designer discusses the challenges in designing the 2100 costumes for the massive film.
When asked about the unique factors of the funeral outfits of each tribe in the film, Carter said, “It was divided by tribes. A lot of people have on African garb with details like beadwork or fur to indicate their tribe. You’ll see Zulu, you’ll see Ndebele, you’ll see the Maasai. The Border Tribe is distinguished by the Basotho blankets, while the Merchant Tribe is inspired by the Tuareg and the turbans and we infused the big silver earrings they wear. Then you see the Ndebele graphic prints and linework on Ramonda’s white dress. The Mining Tribe is represented by the priestess, who wears a Himba head piece, and the River Tribe by the man with the white lip plate and ceremonial costume, the whole nine. The entire procession, with the tribes coming through to represent their particular areas, is pretty beautiful.”
The original film had 700 costumes designed by Carter. When asked how many were made for this recent film, Carter said, “Maybe three times that, about 2,100. We had all of Wakanda and then we built another world, the Talokanil, and had to bring up a new military, the Navy. We had a crew in Los Angeles and Atlanta, but also things were being made in New Zealand, India, Paris, London, New York. My team in Atlanta at Tyler Perry Studios was a good 20 to 30 people doing intake, aging and dyeing, specialty work, build. We had a floor of just cutters and seamstresses and another floor with the tailors. Then we outsourced to other companies, so there’s hundreds of people involved with the manifestation of these costumes, but it all does ultimately run through me.”
When asked to describe her biggest challenges, Carter said, “Figuring out how to make costumes beautiful that were going underwater. There were so many aspects to being in water that worked against us. We made a headdress for Namor with organic materials and feathers. He went underwater and everyone loved the way it looked and floated. But when it came out, it was unusable, because chemicals in the water bleached out the color. So we were constantly learning how to fix our dyes so they didn’t fade. And learning how to make things out of silicone that look real. We had to weight and tether the fabrics; every costume was different. We put M’Baku’s wood-like costume on a background actor and plunged him in the 20-foot tank and he just floated. We could not weight him enough to get him to go down and do the work underwater. I decided to think Roman gladiator and give him a raffia skirt and all of the accoutrements, with sandals instead of the big heavy Ugg boots.”
Information originally sourced from Hollywood Reporter.