Carter proves that mogul moves can be strategically made through creating exemplary work and subsequently finding new means of repackaging them.
I like to think of a mogul as someone who influences culture, so much so, they can change, highlight, and shape it. Ruth E. Carter falls nowhere short of doing just that. The decorated costume designer is the creative mind behind some of our favorite movies’ most iconic dress and that’s no easy feat as a movie is nothing without the correct ensemble to present a character and set the mood. But that’s no issue for Carter who seems to always get it right, from Spike Lee’s contemporary Do The Right Thing to period pieces like Lee’s Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, both of which earned her an Oscar nomination for best costume design as well as an Emmy nod for Phillip Noyce’s TV adaptation of Roots.
As of most recent, Carter’s exemplary work bringing a fictional futuristic African superhero and his kingdom to life in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther garnered her a slew of nods from the Oscars, Saturn Awards, Black Reel Awards, and Costume Designer Guild Awards. She’s already taken home a 2019 Critics Choice Award, International Online Cinema Halfway Award, and Seattle Film Critics Award for costume design.
Her momentous influence with Black Panther came with tedious research and carefully crafted costumes that pay homage to various parts of African tribes all the while remembering Wakanda is futuristic and hasn’t been touched by colonizers. “I had to constantly be aware of things that might feel like stereotypes and not depend on what was in my brain. This movie is a fantasy, but if you don’t do the research, you can get into trouble,” Carter told WSJ.
In speaking to WBUR, the Massachusetts-native further explained her process in capturing and creating the Afrofuturistic garb that would captivate audiences around the world. “The costumes gave us an opportunity to delve into specific parts of the African tribal culture, as well as to bring so much color and vibrancy to the film,” she said. “There are a lot of scenes that take place in a real expansive environment and we were able to color that environment with the Sotho blankets and the beautiful red maasai color for the Dora Milaje. It just was a feast of color.”
When it came to T’Challa’s suit, which was already developed by Marvel, Carter added her own special touches to it. “So we developed a surface texture that had a small design. It was a triangle, we called it the ‘Okavango’ triangle, three-sided shape,” Carter explained. “And the triangle is kind of like the sacred geometry of Africa, it means the father, mother child, and it also is seen throughout the continent in many artistic forms, in the beautiful art of Africa… It really starts to feel like he’s not only a superhero, he’s also an African king because of the style of the suit.”
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Thank you, @newyorkermag #repost “Over her three-decade career in film, the costume designer Ruth E. Carter has brought to life such figures from black history as Tina Turner, played by Angela Bassett in “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” and Malcolm X, played by Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s bio-pic. For the film “Black Panther,” she evoked the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda by melding sci-fi with global fashion history, drawing influence from sources including the color symbolism of the Maasai people, samurai armor, and the jewelry of Ndebele women. Click the link in our bio for a portfolio of her work, captured by the photographer Awol Erizku, alongside items from his personal collection.” Photographs by @awolerizku.
Yeah I know, iconic!
So, how do you top that? By exhibiting your most iconic threads during the most fashionable time of the year, New York Fashion Week. IMG x Harlem’s Fashion Row will showcase a curated display that will highlight Carter’s ability to capture art and culture. It’ll include 35 of her works from Spike Lee’s 1988 School Daze to 2018’s Black Panther.
“I even re-created the famous dress worn by Tina Turner’s [character] Angela Bassett for the song ‘Proud Mary’. Can’t wait for everyone to see this display!” Carter detailed earlier this week on her Facebook.
In the past, I always thought becoming a mogul was more about building brands to amass more influence and power, like Diddy. However, Carter proves that mogul moves can be strategically made through creating exemplary work and subsequently finding new means of repackaging them.
Her NYFW exhibit is sure to shut it down. For those interested in attending, monitor www.harlemsfashionrow.com for details.