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  • - Well, the most difficult part

  • about being a costume designer

  • is that, in many ways, you're also a psychologist,

  • you're an art director,

  • you're in the background and you're in the foreground.

  • And being able to balance that

  • with all the creative input

  • becomes very difficult and challenging at times.

  • [upbeat piano music]

  • My name is Ruth Carter and I'm a costume designer.

  • There are lots of people

  • and layers to creating a costume,

  • from getting a person dressed for the set,

  • to communicating ideas,

  • that I'm constantly paring it down.

  • We all want to take the lead,

  • and show our stuff,

  • and be out front.

  • And, "Look at me, look at me."

  • But a lot of times it's, "Don't look at me."

  • And a lot of times it's let's be subtle.

  • I don't do a lot of subtle films,

  • but believe it or not,

  • there is a dialing down

  • and a constant understanding of the bigger picture,

  • the composition.

  • And I have to consistently be aware of the intent

  • and the composition of each scene,

  • and let all of the parts come together and have synergy.

  • I got into costume design,

  • kind of as a default,

  • I was studying acting in college,

  • and I didn't make the role that I was going after.

  • And the instructor who was actually directing the play

  • asked me if I wanted to do the costumes instead.

  • And it was kind of like the constellation prize.

  • I said, okay,

  • because I had dabbled in sewing as a kid

  • and I gave it a try and it stuck.

  • And I have worked on everything from School Daze,

  • to B.A.P.S, Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues,

  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka,

  • Selma, Malcolm X, and Black Panther.

  • When I first started as a costume designer,

  • I was very much focused on doing the illustrations

  • and going through the process.

  • And then as we traveled through the years,

  • costume design has evolved to be illustration process,

  • involves more people.

  • It's more digital.

  • I was, you know, working on one sheet of paper

  • with my pens or my brushes.

  • And now we're illustrating by computer.

  • We are creating costumes with 3D printing.

  • We can actually, you know,

  • really see 3D renderings of what we're creating.

  • So we can look at a costume

  • from all angles before we begin the build process.

  • So we're much more informed now

  • even though I think my original approach

  • to costume design still is alive and well.

  • There's nothing more beautiful

  • than a sketch done on a piece of art paper.

  • But now we can use our digital process

  • to reverse things that we don't like much easier

  • than it was from that first idea.

  • [mellow piano music]

  • When I was first asked to do Black Panther,

  • I thought, "Why me?"

  • I had never done a superhero film before.

  • And walking into Marvel was similar

  • to me like walking maybe into the CIA,

  • you know, doors mysteriously slammed behind you.

  • You get your eyes scanned.

  • And I walked into a room with Ryan Coogler and Nate Moore.

  • And, you know, I found myself welcomed to the team.

  • Ryan was asking me questions

  • about Malcolm X and other films that I had done.

  • And I felt like I had been designing superheroes already,

  • real life superheroes.

  • And that's what he wanted me

  • to bring to the Black Panther film.

  • Coming into designing for Black Panther

  • was definitely a multi-tiered process.

  • There was a Wakandan Bible that gave us some direction

  • for creating the looks for many of the tribes.

  • When you're building a world, you can't take for granted

  • that it's gonna be a one dimensional kind of a thing.

  • It was multi-tiered, multi-dimensional.

  • And as we delved into each individual costume,

  • for example, the costume for Okoye,

  • who is the general for the Dora Milaje,

  • we wanted to have a uniform.

  • We didn't want a cheerleader skirt and a bikini top.

  • We wanted these women to be taken seriously in a uniform,

  • because they are protecting the King,

  • King T'Challa, the Black Panther.

  • And so it was Ryan Coogler

  • who felt like they should be flat on the ground,

  • split toe boot,

  • no heels, no wedge boots.

  • And we crafted a costume

  • that really did represent all the areas of Africa.

  • You have bead work from the Turkana tribe.

  • You have a leather skirt wrapped like the Himba women,

  • who soaked the skins of the calf

  • and stretch the edges so that it ruffles.

  • When I viewed a lot of the techniques

  • that were used for a lot of indigenous African craft

  • and tribalwear,

  • I saw so many beautiful ways

  • that we could represent it on this costume.

  • We have the Ndebele neck rings and arm rings

  • that represents South Africa.

  • But we wanted the neck rings to feel like jewelry.

  • So we actually got a jewelry designer

  • to come in and create our prototypes for those pieces.

  • So there are so many ways

  • in which the Dora Milaje costume honors the female form.

  • It has a leather harness

  • that travels around the body,

  • and you'll see it wrap around the bust area,

  • and into the waist.

  • And in between there's a raised printing

  • that mimics scarification.

  • Different tribal customs use scarification

  • as identifying their origin.

  • Sometimes the scars are on the face.

  • Sometimes the scars are on the body.

  • And you'll see that represented

  • in many areas and many aspects of different tribal customs.

  • And so this Dora Milaje costume would not be complete

  • without some representation of that tradition.

  • To design for Queen Ramonda,

  • it was very stressful for me at first,

  • because in the comics Queen Ramonda is walking around

  • in yoga pants and barefoot,

  • and she has her white, beautiful dreadlocks.

  • And, you know, she's very easygoing,

  • and because we're making a movie,

  • and I really wanted you to recognize her as the Queen

  • at first glance,

  • when we see her there on the landing pad

  • when T'Challa returns to Wakanda with Nakia,

  • we know right away that that's the Queen.

  • And I think it's identifiable in her costume.

  • She has her shoulder mantle, which is 3D printed.

  • She has her isicholo,

  • which is the married woman's hat from South Africa.

  • And one of the main reasons why it was important

  • to 3D print that piece was I needed it to be perfect.

  • If Wakanda is this forward-thinking place

  • that's leading in technology,

  • the Queen would definitely have pieces

  • that represented tradition,

  • but also represented new innovations.

  • The first Black Panther suit

  • was seen in the film Captain America: Civil War.

  • I think it was added maybe well into the production.

  • And so there were a lot of things

  • that weren't really sussed out completely.

  • So by the time I came onto

  • the full-blown Black Panther film,

  • I brought the costume to my office

  • and I put it on a mannequin,

  • and I thought, "Hmm, you know,

  • the mannequins just really don't give you the magic.

  • Maybe I need Chadwick Boseman to come into my office."

  • He came in and he put the suit on,

  • and it was magical.

  • And he stretched,

  • and he did his karate poses,

  • and he did all this stuff

  • in my office and I was completely floored.

  • I wanted to step in

  • and give it my personal spin.

  • I felt like there needed to be a connection

  • between the suit and the place, in Wakanda,

  • and I saw that there was an opportunity

  • to add a surface pattern

  • to the suit,

  • which was a triangle.

  • The triangle is sacred geometry of Africa,

  • I like to say.

  • It means the father, the mother, and the child.

  • And because we needed a surface texture,

  • the triangle was developed.

  • But the suit itself,

  • it was designed by Adi Granov

  • of the Marvel visual development team.

  • And people don't realize

  • that it really does take a team

  • to create all of the beautiful things that are developed.

  • There's hundreds of illustrations that are put forward.

  • And then it comes into my world.

  • My world is one of design

  • and it's also one of materialization.

  • And the materialization of the costumes is a big,

  • it was responsibility to understand how the textures

  • will work together.

  • And once we materialize these things, we do prototypes.

  • And so I did a prototype of the Panther skin,

  • as you might call it.

  • Several prototypes were developed

  • and submitted for the Marvel executives

  • and Ryan Coogler to take a look at.

  • And so they chose the one that they liked.

  • And then we made the complete suit.

  • [mellow piano music]

  • I worked with Eddie Murphy for so many years.

  • It was a reunion of sorts.

  • It gave me an opportunity to reacquaint myself

  • with his body type,

  • and how things change as you get a little bit older.

  • Things do change.

  • So at that point,

  • I needed to go back to the first movie,

  • and really study it

  • and find the things that we wanted to extract and keep,

  • and then move it forward.

  • I mean, going from Wakanda to Zamunda,

  • it really needed to have its own signature

  • and its own look.

  • When I was on Black Panther,

  • I would tell my crew and everyone coming onto the job that,

  • "Hey, this is not Coming to America.

  • Even though it was a great film,

  • Wakanda needed to really have its own identity.

  • And here I am on Coming to America,

  • saying to everyone, "This is not Wakanda."

  • So I really examined what was really great about the design

  • on the first movie,

  • and what we really could expect in a sequel,

  • because we're much more sophisticated now.

  • We have seen African royalty,

  • and we really need to address the audience

  • and their knowledge of Africa.

  • One of the things that we...

  • I would like to say we modernized,

  • or we made different in Coming to America,

  • was we were cruelty-free.

  • If you remember, the King wears a lion on his shoulder

  • when he comes to America.

  • And Prince Akeem, he also wears like an ocelot

  • over his shoulder.

  • And in the new Coming to America

  • we decided that we would 3D print the lion on the shoulder.

  • And I like the idea of it being a piece of jewelry as well.

  • So we printed it in gold,

  • and we gemmed the eyes and the nose.

  • And as you might know,

  • even the Maasai tribe in Africa,

  • traditionally, they killed a lot of lions,

  • but now they have technology that helps them chart

  • where the lion herds are,

  • so that they won't follow their herd of cattle,

  • and they can steer away from it.

  • So that all connects to technology for me as well.

  • We 3D printed the lion on the shoulder of a Prince Akeem.

  • So we have had very little