For One Night, Wakanda Was Real

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With Black Panther’s release date coinciding with Fashion Week, it was only natural for Marvel to throw a show of its own. “Welcome to Wakanda” brought together fashion designers in celebration of the film. Cushnie et Ochs, Tome, Sophie Theallet, Chromat, Brother Vellies, and LaQuan Smith were a few of the brands that created bespoke pieces for the charity auction event (proceeds will benefit Save the Children). Even the cast stopped by: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danai Gurira waltzed in past the black carpet.

The show presented two seemingly opposing themes. Some of the fabrics and hairstyles — like Ikiré Jones’s palm-print suit and a model’s small Afro — felt familiar, while other elements — like the electric eye makeup on most of the models, or LaQuan Smith’s sequined suit — conveyed an out-of-this-world sense of the future. Witnessed live, the show’s Afro-futurism undercurrent felt a bit like Blade Runner: Nigeria.

The clothing and accessories were meant both to reference the film (and the work of costume designer Ruth E. Carter) and start conversations. Aurora James of Brother Vellies showcased a pair of tan boots made of sisal hairs from Haiti — some curly, some straightened — as a commentary on the beauty standards surrounding black women and hair.

Across the aisle, Chromat founder Becca McCharen tapped one of her designers, Tolu Aremu, to execute the brand’s creative direction for the show. Aremu, who is Nigerian, designed a floor-length gown out of Ankara fabric complete with a Solange-worthy headpiece. The orange-and-blue dress was the show’s sole plus-size offering.

Nick Barose, who often works with Lupita Nyong’o, led the makeup direction. Barose focused on the eyes, explaining that the look was “inspired by African face art but with a futuristic edge.” No two looks were the same, which is why some of the models (men included) were styled with dotted eyeliner, while some wore alternating colors on their upper and lower lids and some wore a mix of straight and dotted lines. Barose and his team achieved the look with Lancôme’s Drama Liqui-Pencil and Monsieur Big Eyeliner Marker. “We kept it natural and fresh so it didn’t look costumey.”

Aligning with the “fresh” theme, the models didn’t wear foundation. Instead Barose strategically applied concealer to cover blemishes and uneven complexions, and he blended Lancôme’s Teint Idole Ultra Custom Highlighting Drops on their upper cheekbones (Barose also uses these drops to highlight Lupita’s face).

Rodney Cutler’s team orchestrated the hair production. “We wanted to keep everything chic and sleek; almost as if they didn’t have hair,” Akeem Cargile, a hairstylist on the team explained. In fact, a few of the models wore shaved, or nearly-shaved heads. Cutler misted one model’s twa (teeny weeny afro) with Redken’s Diamond Oil so it would glisten under the lights. Two more models wore enormous ponytails that were secured with glamorous leather ties. One also had Kanekalon hair added to the perimeter of her hair in order to create a braided headband and center part. Like the makeup, no two hairstyles were the same. After all, individuality is a big asset in Wakanda.

The Black Panther Fashion Show Was Visually Spectacular