One of the first things that people tend to notice when it comes to Black Panther is just how beautiful the costume design is. People are already asking if it’ll get award recognition, and the 2017 Oscars haven’t even premiered yet. Costume designer Ruth E. Carter talks about the style of one of the characters in particular: Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o. Carter spoke to Entertainment Weekly about Nakia and why she was always in green.
“Every character has a specific color — it’s a nice way of giving people their own identity,” explains Carter who credits director Ryan Coogler with the idea. “We use color like comic books do, with each character staying in their lane as far their palette goes: T’Challa is purple, Okoye is red, and Nakia is green.”
Nakia is a member of the River tribe and her colors reflect that, according to Carter. It isn’t just the color for Nakia, but the color for her people.
“She is the No. 1 warrior in the River tribe and her look was inspired by the Suri tribe in Africa,” says Carter. “Green signifies water, a coastal community, leaves and plants — they live in a lush area, as opposed to the perception that Africa is arid and dry.”
Costume design is a very delicate process, and Carter wanted to make sure that Nakia’s style reflected her personality. She’s different from the other warriors we meet in the movie.
“She is not just a warrior — she’s a war dog, a spy, and an African princess,” says Carter. “There are so many layers to her, I treated each one like a different character.”
Nakia has been turning heads since we all got a look at her in a green dress in the casino fight scene that takes place in the second act.
“This is her Bond girl look,” says Carter of the glamorous, slit-to-there dress Nakia wears in the casino scene. “The geometry in this pattern was inspired by Kente cloth. The fabric is hand-painted and we used a little bit of iridescent paint, so when the light hit it in a certain way it lit up.”
It wasn’t just a dress and her clothes when she was in Wakanda that were green, but also her look when she was with the CIA after Claue is captured that is featured in the trailer. She wasn’t at home and she wasn’t trying to blend into an upscale casino, so everything is much more understated
For Nakia’s look at the CIA block scene (not pictured), Carter overdyed a jean jacket (found at Jeffrey’s in Atlanta) green, paired it with green leather pants, then sprayed leather boots with green paint. “Her costume was dealt with in a theatrical way, but it still had to feel natural,” says Carter. “There’s not a lot of green clothes out there that also fit perfectly and work for the story.”
Carter really did something special with the costume design in Black Panther. It really made this world pop in a way we’ve never seen before and really elevated what was already a good movie into a great one.
Summary: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.
Black Panther, directed Ryan Coogler, stars Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, and Martin Freeman. It’s out now.