Billion dollar blockbuster “Black Panther” isn’t just an awesome superhero movie about the fictional, technologically advanced African country Wakanda; it’s become a cultural source of pride for African Americans. Moviegoers are dressing up in apparel and accessories that draw on their African heritage proudly flaunting their ensembles proudly. On Instagram, hashtags #wakandaforever (445,000+ posts) and #wakandastyle (7,200+ posts) continue to grow.
Marvel has just confirmed a sequel, so don’t expect the movement to ease up anytime soon. In fact, Wakandaforever fever is piggybacking on an already rising trend for Afro-centric style.
“We watched the whole Africa Rising trending up in the past few seasons and we were excited to see so many emerging new designers from there really showing appreciation and redefining their take on their roots,” says Jessica Tse, Accessories Director at trend forecasting company Fashion Snoops.
“The success of ‘Black Panther’ really validates what we’ve been tracking the past few seasons. I also noticed a lot of elements of talisman (for traditions and supernatural protection) and warrior dressing (which also mirrors in recent runway shows).”
“There’s also a new wave of creatives with designs and products that are truly inspired by the culture and traditions,” adds Tse. “Some of my personal favorites are Brother Vellies – amazing luxury accessories (bag and footwear) brand sourced and handmade in South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, etc., plus clothing brand LFANT.”
A recent TV segment on NY1 outlined how certain Brooklyn clothing shops that cater to the African American customer are seeing sales rise as well.
The film’s success has generated a surge in sales for a vendor at Brooklyn’s Flatbush Caton Market. “What I have on the hair tie — it’s called gele. I make them myself. The fabric is flat, but I turn it to this,” vendor Loveth Howell said, gesturing to her gele. Born in Nigeria, Howell has seen a 40% bump in business since the debut of “Black Panther.” She sells everything from dashikis, to dresses, to jewelry, to horse tails. And market vendor Iris Lang says she’s been busy sewing outfits from scratch for customers. “They buy the African material and they bring it to me, and I make it for them.”
#WAKANDAFOREVER and #WAKANDASTYLE are popular hashtags on Instagram, as evidence that a fictional, even mythological, place can have a real impact in the real world.
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