Welcome to Wakanda: Marvel Studio’s Fashion Week Black Panther Party

Under the dark cloud of Trump and his minions in the alt-right, who could blame fashionistas in New York for seeking solace in the tropical breezes of a factional African republic?

Tout le African-American aristocracy were out and about on Tuesday night at Industria Superstudios in Manhattan for the Marvel Studios Black Panther NYFW party. The line snaked around Washington Street as hundreds of press and invited guests waited – some for over an hour and a half in February New York weather – to get into the cavernous West Village space, and pay homage to King T’Challa. The event space was transformed, temporarily, into the Afrofuturist faux-African Kingdom of Wakanda, with imported greenery and video screens. Among the black luminaries in attendance: Lupita Nyong’o, Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs, director Ryan Coogler, Chadwick BosemanLetitia Wright, Michael B. Jordan, Young ParisRebecca Theodore-Vachon and Danai Gurira of The Walking Dead.

 Actors Danai Gurira (third from left) and Lupita Nyong’o (third from right) pose backstage with models during the  Black Panther  “Welcome to Wakanda” New York Fashion Week Showcase on Feb. 12, 2018. Via Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

Actors Danai Gurira (third from left) and Lupita Nyong’o (third from right) pose backstage with models during the Black Panther “Welcome to Wakanda” New York Fashion Week Showcase on Feb. 12, 2018. Via Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

The Twitter thread of the event is full of fans of the Kingdom of Wakanda voicing appreciation. “A few hours later and I'm changing my mindset looking at the #BlackPantherNYFW thread,” MackOfAllShades tweeted. "The basic premise of a superpowered king fighting crime in a futuristic feline-themed suit is the kind of fresh-off-the-panel action absurdity that marks today’s comic-book movies," Van Newkirk III writes in The Atlantic. "But, on a deeper level, the fictional African nation of Wakanda is the same Atlantean archetype that has always haunted this diaspora. And like all variations on that archetypal story, Black Panther is a fantasy about black power." At the event, with well dressed fashion, film and media luminaries prowling the dance floor like big cats on the veldt, black power was not in short supply.

But this is not just your average superhero movie, such as Man of Steel or Spiderman. The fashion elite would not wait ninety minutes on a February night to geek out on the fashions of Peter Parker or Clark Kent. Black Panther is a movement, the rise of Afrofuturism, a stylized kingdom with all the aspirations of the black geek class. What would the ideal non-colonized African nation look like? It would have to be, in the idealized sense of the early 21st century, what the movie conveys: Black Supremacy. Wakanda is a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the African diaspora. It is the uncolonized nation, self-sufficient, technologically advanced, and sought-after excellency. Wakanda is what we could have been.

 Fashion on display at the  Black Panther  “Welcome to Wakanda” New York Fashion Week Showcase on Feb. 12, 2018. Via Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.

Fashion on display at the Black Panther “Welcome to Wakanda” New York Fashion Week Showcase on Feb. 12, 2018. Via Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.

The fashion was exceptional and Afrocentric. The jewelry of Los Angeles-based Douriean Fletcher was also featured. Hired by the legendary Ruth E. Carter, Black Panther’s costume designer, Fletcher told The Daily News: "CCH Pounder had a jewelry party for me, and invited Ruth. She saw my work and she liked it." Carter, who is at the fountainhead of the new Afrofuturist movement, and the costume designer of the most anticipated movie of the year, she is clearly having her moment.

Further, aside from the political dynamism that the film introduces into the culture, it also serves practical philanthropic purposes. Black Panther: Welcome To Wakanda, was an event presaging the hit film as well as a charity presentation featuring ten designers who contributed pieces inspired by the Marvel film. Labels including Chromat, Cushnie et Ochs, Sophie Theallet, Ikere Jones and TOME participated with custom-made jewelry and outerwear for the event, all of the proceeds of which will be auctioned off following the party to support Save the Children. “We are thrilled to benefit from the auction of these @theblackpanther #Wakanda-inspired fashions at #BlackPantherNYFW,” Tweets Save the Children. “Thanks to our continued partnership with @Marvel we can provide much needed relief to children around the world.”

Black Panther which opens this weekend worldwide, is expected to bring in over $100 million at the domestic North American box office alone. Walt Disney reports that Black Panther estimated theater count will be 3800. That is the number three of all-time for the month of February behind Lego Batman (4088) SpiderWick Chronicles (3847), two other Winter blockbusters.