EBONY caught up with Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter—the first African-American to be nominated for a Best Costume Design Oscar, for 1992’s Malcolm X—and she explains what it was like working in an industry that lacks diversity and how she was inspired to create the wardrobe for the Marvel movie.
“I don’t see a lot of people who look like me in costume design,” says veteran Carter, who has more than 40 film and television credits to her name. “It tells me, ‘You fought hard. You fought the long fight. Now it’s time to open the door and get some more people like you in here.'” The designer also says she offers up opportunities for internships to help bring in people of different backgrounds who can add to what “Uncle Bobby” looks like.
When discussing what influenced her designs for Wakanda, Carter says, “I traveled to Africa through history books and research.” She did not physically venture to the continent so that she wouldn’t be influenced by the current fashions. “We’re all modern … I didn’t expect to go to Africa to see original indigenous tribes,” she says.
“It was not necessary for me to travel there. I had a plethora of history books and photographs to draw from because we were inspired by the ancient tribes of Africa,” she adds.
Watch the video above to hear Carter’s take on the importance of the costumes in the film for African-Americans and Africans alike.
Black Panther will arrive on digital May 8 and Blu-ray and DVD May 15.