Costume designers on movie sets have, for a long time, been boldly styling the future of fashion. You only have to look at iconic movies like Barbarella, Mad Max, Bladerunner, Star Wars, The Matrix, and even Back to The Future, to realise that merging fashion with technology is nothing new to these forward-thinking Hollywood designers- Ruth Carter, Renée April and Christine Clark, I am talking to you!
Ruth Carter, Fusing Traditional African Fashion with Technology
Afrofuturism is taking science fiction and technology and mixing it with African culture. Giving it an Afro-centric spin, the Black Panther costumes are the epitome of this fusion. Paying homage to African fashion, costume designer Ruth Carter pulls reference directly from various tribes from all over the continent. “I have never done a Marvel film, so it was a huge challenge, and I had a lot to learn” the Academy Award-nominated stylist shared with Pop Sugar.
Carter did not only explore how technology could help her bring the characters costumes to live, she also ‘borrowed’ inspiration from the Turkana tribe, Himba tribe, Ndebele tribe and the Maasai. For Angela Bassett’s character Ramonda, Carter fused tradition with technology. She took the South African Zulu married woman’s hat and had it 3D printed. The ability to use this kind of technology allowed the costume designer to take culture and mix it with modern shapes and fuse some futuristic elements. “It was thrilling to create this world of Black Panther, this world of Wakanda that was based on African culture and then reimagining them in a futuristic model,” said Carter. Also, the cold shoulder dress worn by worldly spy Nakia (Lupita N’gonyo) was designed using software, embossed with a 3-D printer, and hand-painted.
Renée April, Future Trend Spotter in 2049
April’s wardrobe choices for the film were inspired by the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier (AW09), Issey Miyake, Alexander McQueen (AW98) and Vivienne “Punkature” Westwood. Although futuristic, Renée purposely decided to not give a subtle nod to the future of wearable technology clothing. Why? “I made costumes for the dark, wet, polluted, miserable world that Denis [Villeneuve] created. I had to hold myself back and remove anything too avant-garde or outré because it didn’t help the story. There were no superhero suits because the world needed to be realistic, and the characters relatable,” said Renée.
Christine Clark, Warrior Woman of the Future
When it comes futuristic fashion, the modern Tron Legacy film has it all. In it, fashion and technology were partners in crime. Headed by costume designers, Christine Clark and Michael Wilkinson, the duo managed to create the kind of looks that successfully distracted me from the plot of the film.
Although there have been other movies after with fashion tech-inspired wardrobe, I am still completely taken in by the striking futuristic outfits adorned by the characters, especially Zuse, whose Ziggy Stardust look was all corset and high-heeled boots. The intricate designs were unofficially inspired by designers of today, Gareth Pugh, Olivier Theyskens and Nicolas Ghesquiere. Wilkinson and Clark gave an edgy vibe to the 150 super suits, which you see on all principals, and about 154 suits for the supporting cast that had a more economical lighting system, more than 60 helmets and about 65 real-world costumes.