The 'Black Panther' premiere had a disappointing representation issue

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The world premiere of Black Panther in Los Angeles on Monday night was bursting with African-inspired high-fashion moments, from Lupita Nyong’o’s purple Atelier Versace gown to Daniel Kaluuya’s plum Burberry blazer over a traditional African robe. Fans on social media freaked out, calling the red carpet parade of gorgeous gowns and colorful suits “the epitome of black excellence” and filled with so much slayage it put “fashion shows to shame.” However, there was one thing missing: African designers.

Michael B. Jordan opted for simple black Calvin Klein suit; Sterling K. Brown matched him in a black La Perla suit. Even the movie’s lead, Chadwick Boseman, who plays the king of the movie’s fictional nation Wakanda, didn’t represent the continent in which the film takes place; he wore an Emporio Armani suit. Donald Glover wore a bright orange Dolce & Gabbana suit. Janelle Monae went with a Christian Siriano gown with vibrant puffy sleeves. Yara Shahidi wore a tasseled frock from Italian designer Etro. For a film that’s supposed to represent Africa in not just the Marvel universe but pop culture as a whole, stars seemed to make sartorial choices that missed the mark.

Fashion Bomb Daily shared a photo on Instagram of Issa Rae at the premiere. She wore a gorgeous draping white gown with a radiant lining designed by Rosie Assoulin, and some followers were unhappy about that. “Nice … but another white designer. I hope this just for L.A. premiere and they highlight some actual black designers on this platform,” someone wrote, to which another follower responded, “completely right! There are tons of amazing black designers and they should be highlighted.” Someone else sounded off saying, “So no Black Designers (African or African-American) were tapped by any folks to make these clothes for the BLACK PANTHER Premiere. #wegottadobetter,” and a user responded, “I noticed that. It’s disappointing.”

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

In an article titled “Where Were the Black Designers at the Black Panther Premiere?Fashion Bomb Daily wrote, “In this era of the black renaissance and #blackexcellence, wouldn’t it be fitting to show love to black fashion at the Premiere of the first Marvel Movie with a primarily Black Cast?”

Angela Bassett may have heard the outcry, as she made a point of naming the black designers she wore in an Instagram photo. “Rings and Earrings by Darrell Roache (Black Designer) Ring by Dorriean (Black Designer),” she captioned a photo of her in the yellow-gold fringed jumpsuit she wore at the premiere. However, the centerpiece — the jumpsuit — was designed by Naeem Khan.

Many of these celebs aren’t to blame, because they used a stylist for the night. Monae’s look was put together by Alexandra Mandelkorn, Boseman consulted with Ashley Weston, Jordan’s simple suit was chosen by Jeff Kim, Glover was styled by Ilaria Urbinati, and Nyong’o went with Micaela Erlanger. One Instagram user pointed out that “outside of Issa, all their stylists are white.”

Yahoo Lifestyle reached out to a handful of these stylists to see where they drew inspiration from for these looks, but we have not received responses.

Of course, there were a handful of actors in what some would consider appropriate attire for the event. Mike Colter wore a gold-and-red tunic that matched the armor the warriors wear in the film. The shirt came from a company called No Tribe Clothing, a brand that sells modern apparel using African-inspired textiles and prints. David Oyelowo’s entire colorfully patterned outfit came from the brand. Get Out star Kaluuya was a happy medium, layering a traditional East African Kanzu underneath his Burberry suit. The look earned him lots of praise on social media.

Nyongo’s mom got the memo: She wore a dress designed by an African retailer based in Beverly Hills and even helped design it. Jordan’s parents were also dressed by the brand.

Many of the women made up for wearing a non-African designer in their beauty choices; Shahidi, Bassett, and Ryan Michelle Bathe (Sterling K. Brown’s wife) wore their hair in full Afros.

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