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Exclusive: “Black Panther” Costume Designer Talks Stitching Black Excellence Into Cast’s Wardrobe

Academy Award-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter, who recently worked on “Black Panther,” shares inspiring stories with high school students Saturday, March 10, 2018, during a panel discussion of Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and ESSENCE Magazine at Epcot in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 11th annual Disney Dreamers Academy, taking place March 8-11, 2018 is a career-inspiration program for distinguished high school students from across the U.S. (Todd Anderson, photographer)

“Black Panther’s” Ruth Carter Spoke About Her Process To Kids At The Disney Dreamer’s Academy

She’s the biggest star of “Black Panther” that you’ve probably never heard of.

Ruth Carter is the woman behind the intricate Africana-inspired attire that adorns the cast of black blockbuster “Black Panther.” The veteran costume designer – behind such films as “Selma” and “School Daze” – has spoken about how she infused the costumes with both black pride and Afro-futurism.

“‘Black Panther’ was an opportunity for us to bring African culture to the foreground,” Carter told high school students last weekend at the Disney Dreamer’s Academy at Walt Disney World, hosted by Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine. “The first part of my journey is to research and understand the culture, because Afro-futurism is culture.”

Carter said she travelled around Africa for inspiration for her designs for the film. Carter said she wanted the movie’s clothes to help African-American viewers identify with their origins in the motherland.

“The Black Panther suit itself, it has these triangular patterns on the suit – I call it the Okobongo pattern – because I wanted the Black Panther to not only be a superhero, I wanted him to be an African king,” Carter explained. “So when he’s walking around, and having conversations without his helmet on, you could see the patterns and feel it’s from Africa.”

Carter said she was initially intimidated by the “Black Panther” opportunity, but said she was thrilled that she took it any way, and was able to add her own personal touch to what has become of one the biggest blockbusters in movie history.

“So going into Marvel, and being really intimidated because I’m at Marvel Studios, and because they have the smartest people with the best ideas…I actually brought something to the table. So now that it’s all out, I feel fantastic because I was part of it, and I contributed to it, and I got over my fears.”

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